June 14-16, 2013, at Ozark Theosophical Camp, Arkansas, U.S.A.
By David Reigle on April 30, 2013 at 11:30 pm
References for Ṛg-veda 10.129
The following references are also links to the source files: 36 English translations in chronological order, 3 French translations or notes on them, and 12 German translations or notes on them. Then follow the main Sanskrit editions of this hymn: Aufrecht’s 1863 edition of the Ṛg-veda text in roman script; Max Muller’s 1892 revised edition of the text with Sāyaṇa’s commentary; Sontakke and Kashikar’s 1946 edition of the text with Sāyaṇa’s commentary, which is now the standard edition of this commentary; and Vishva Bandhu’s 1965 edition of the text with Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava’s commentary, the only other commentary on this part of the Ṛg-veda now available. Next is Ṛg-veda 10.129 as it is repeated in the three main editions the Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa at 2.8.9. All three of these include Sāyaṇa’s commentary. Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra’s commentary is missing on this part of the Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa, so the 1921 edition with Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra’s commentary had to substitute Sāyaṇa’s commentary here. Some longer articles, a short book (Agrawala 1963), and some book excerpts follow. Lastly come the individual verses. Verse 10.129.4 is given as it is repeated in the three main editions of the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka. Here we do have Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra’s commentary, which proved very helpful for interpreting this verse (see translation notes). The other two editions include Sāyaṇa’s commentary.
By Ingmar de Boer on April 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm
In The Secret Doctrine, in volume I, stanza II, śloka 5-6 (SD I, 28), the Book of Dzyan speaks of a germ from which the universe is born:
5. THE SEVEN SONS WERE NOT YET BORN FROM THE WEB OF LIGHT. DARKNESS ALONE WAS FATHER-MOTHER, SVABHAVAT; AND SVABHAVAT WAS IN DARKNESS.
6. THESE TWO ARE THE GERM, AND THE GERM IS ONE. THE UNIVERSE WAS STILL CONCEALED IN THE DIVINE THOUGHT AND THE DIVINE BOSOM. . . .
In SD I, 1 we find an explanation of this twofold germ in terms of the symbols displayed on the palm leaves of the archaic document mentioned by HPB in the first lines of the Proem:
The point in the hitherto immaculate Disk, Space and Eternity in Pralaya, denotes the dawn of differentiation. It is the Point in the Mundane Egg [...], the germ within the latter which will become the Universe, the ALL, the boundless, periodical Kosmos, this germ being latent and active, periodically and by turns.
The central point in the circle in the second archaic symbol represents the eternal germ. This germ is one of the fundamental aspects of the unmanifested universe. In SD I, 379 we find another important clue as to the nature of the germ:
The spirit of Fire (or Heat), which stirs up, fructifies, and develops into concrete form everything (from its ideal prototype), which is born of WATER or primordial Earth, evolved Brahma — with the Hindus. The lotus flower, represented as growing out of Vishnu’s navel — that God resting on the waters of space and his Serpent of Infinity — is the most graphic allegory ever made: the Universe evolving from the central Sun, the POINT, the ever-concealed germ.
The navel of Viṣṇu is symbolic for the eternal germ, the central point in the Mundane Egg.
From SD I, 381n we learn that we might look for this allegory, or creation story, “in Indian Puranas”:
* In Indian Puranas it is Vishnu, the first, and Brahma, the second logos, or the ideal and practical creators, who are respectively represented, one as manifesting the lotus, the other as issuing from it.
There are several versions of the story of the birth of Brahmā, for example one of these is found in Manusmṛti chapter I, verses 10-17 and another one in the Mahabhārata book III, section 270. The Manusmṛti version is referred to by HPB in SD I, 333. In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa the story is touched upon several times. In the Bhāgavata Purāṇa however, BhP III.8.10-17, we find a fairly detailed version of the story. In verse 10 in the French 1840 translation of Eugène Burnouf, the primordial state of of the universe is presented like this:
10. Au temps où l’univers tout entier était submergé par les eaux, celui dont les yeux ne se ferment s’abandonna au sommeil, couché sur un lit formé par le Roi des serpents, solitaire, inactif, et trouvant sa dans sa propre béatitude.
We may recognize the waters as the darkness or space from the Book of Dzyan, and the bed formed by the King of serpents, as eternal duration. The serpent in this version of the story is called Śeṣa, and in some other versions it is called Ānanta, meaning endless or eternal. In SD I, 73 we have:
Sesha or Ananta, ‘the couch of Vishnu,’ is an allegorical abstraction, symbolizing infinite Time in Space, which contains the germ and throws off periodically the efflorescence of this germ, the manifested Universe….”.
Viṣṇu’s state of sleep in verse 10 represents pralaya, the tamasic state, a state of inertia. Then there are three qualities attributed to the pralayic state of Viṣṇu: 1. solitaire, 2. inactif, and 3. trouvant sa dans sa propre béatitude. The Sanskrit (see GRETIL: Gaudiya Grantha Mandira) terms here are 1. eka, 2. kṛtakṣaṇa and 3. svātmaratau nirīha:
10. udāplutaṃ viśvam idaṃ tadāsīd yan nidrayāmīlitadṛṅ nyamīlayat
ahīndratalpe ‘dhiśayāna ekaḥ kṛtakṣaṇaḥ svātmaratau nirīhaḥ
The term eka simply means “one”, a term we come across very frequently in volume I of The Secret Doctrine. It is slightly different from Burnouf’s “solitaire”, as it is a more philosophical term indicating primordial unity, rather than isolation or separateness.
Kṛtakṣaṇa would be something like “waiting for the right moment”, composed of kṛta, “done”, and kṣaṇa, “moment”. (Monier-Williams) An alternative “in leisure time”, “waiting”, “pausing”, as opposed to “inactif”, would incorporate the element of time, which is important in subsequent verses. (kāla)
Svātmaratau means “both his own self and delighting”, and nirīha is “indifferent”, “without desire”, “effortless”, or “motionless”, so svātmaratau nirīhaḥ might be translated as “remaining in unity, delighting, without effort”.
In BhP III.8.13-14 the lotus is produced from the navel of Viṣṇu:
13. L’essence subtile, renfermée au sein de celui dont le regard pénètre les molécules élémentaires des choses, agitée par la qualité de la Passion qui s’était développée sous l’inﬂuence du temps, sortit, pour créer, de la région de son nombril.
14. Elle s’éleva rapidement sous la forme d’une tige de lotus, par l’action du temps qui réveille les œuvres; ce lotus dont l’Esprit [suprême] est la matrice, éclairait, comme le soleil, de sa splendeur la vaste étendue des eaux.
The corresponding Sanskrit is:
13. tasyārthasūkṣmābhiniviṣṭadṛṣṭer antargato ‘rtho rajasā tanīyān
guṇena kālānugatena viddhaḥ sūṣyaṃs tadābhidyata nābhideśāt
14. sa padmakośaḥ sahasodatiṣṭhat kālena karmapratibodhanena
svarociṣā tat salilaṃ viśālaṃ vidyotayann arka ivātmayoniḥ
The quality of Passion, rajas, stimulates primordial matter, which rises up through the navel taking the form of the bud or stalk of a lotus. (padmakośa)
In verse 13 we have kālānugatena, which is kāla + anugata + -ena, “through acquirement with time” (cf. Monier-Williams), corresponding to Burnouf’s “qui s’était développée sous l’inﬂuence du temps”. An alternative would be “after a certain period”, “at a certain time/moment”. In verse 14 we have kālena, “by time”, or “through the workings of time”, “par l’action du temps”, and again an alternative would be the instrumental of time: “in time”, “at a certain moment” or perhaps even HPB’s more poetic “when the hour has struck”.
Returning to the enigmatic quotation from the “Occult Catechism” in SD I, 11:
“What is it that ever is?” “Space, the eternal Anupadaka.”* “What is it that ever was?” “The Germ in the Root.” “What is it that is ever coming and going?” “The Great Breath.” [..]
The eternal germ is the principle “that ever was” because it is at any time the origin of the current world process. It is the First Logos, or as we have seen, in terms of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Viṣṇu, or more specifically the navel of Viṣṇu.
By David Reigle on April 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm
Part 3: Comparison of Ṛg-veda 10.129 with the Book of Dzyan
Now that we have what I consider to be an adequate basis for comparison, with the translation choices and the reasons for them explained at length, we may proceed with the comparison of Ṛg-veda 10.129 with the Book of Dzyan. We should keep in mind that the Ṛg-veda hymns are poems, not philosophical or scientific treatises. About the handful of Ṛg-veda hymns that may be considered cosmogonic, C. Kunhan Raja writes (Poet-Philosophers of the Ṛgveda, 1963, p. 221):
“They are primarily poetry and they are poetry with a philosophical topic. In the other places we have poetry with a philosophical back-ground. We have only poetry in the Ṛgveda and we never have a text book on any philosophical topic.”
Among the Ṛg-veda hymns that may be considered cosmogonic, e.g., 10.90 to puruṣa, 10.121 to hiraṇya-garbha, 10.81-82 to viśva-karman, and perhaps a few others, 10.129 is unique. It gives a more or less straightforward account of cosmogony, without mythology. It therefore provides us with quite the closest comparison from the Vedas to the Book of Dzyan.
RV 10.129.1. [It] was not non-existent, nor was [it] existent then. There was no world, nor sky, [nor] what is beyond. What moved incessantly? Where? In the abode of what? Was [it] water, dense [and] deep?
“Book of Dzyan,” stanza 1, śloka 6: “. . . the Universe, the son of necessity, was immersed in pariniṣpanna, to be outbreathed by that which is and yet is not. Naught was.”; 1.8: “Alone the one form of existence stretched boundless, infinite, causeless, in dreamless sleep; and life pulsated unconscious in universal space, . . .”; 3.2: “. . . the darkness that breathes over the slumbering waters of life.”
In particular, we may compare Ṛg-veda 10.129.1a, “[It] was not non-existent, nor was [it] existent then,” with the phrase in Book of Dzyan 1.6, “that which is and yet is not,” which is further clarified in the following stanza 1.7, “eternal non-being—the one being.” For Ṛg-veda 10.129.1c, “What moved incessantly?,” the “incessantly” is only an attempt to render the sense of “repeated” in the intensive verb “moved,” which sense was rendered by Geldner as “back and forth” (hin und her), by Gonda as “intermittently,” and by Hock as “kept on” moving. The parallel phrase in Book of Dzyan 1.8 is “life pulsated unconscious,” where “pulsated” well shows repeated movement. The “water, dense [and] deep” asked about in Ṛg-veda 10.129.1d may be compared with “the slumbering waters of life” that darkness breathes over in Book of Dzyan 3.2, called in 3.3 “the mother deep.”
RV 10.129.2. There was not death nor life (“non-death”) then. There was no distinguishing sign of night [or] of day. That one breathed without air by [its] inherent power. Other than just that, there was not anything else.
“Book of Dzyan,” stanza 2, śloka 2: “. . . No, there was neither silence nor sound; naught save ceaseless eternal breath, which knows itself not.”
According to The Secret Doctrine, “The Great Breath” is “absolute Abstract Motion” (vol. 1, p. 14), which along with “absolute abstract Space” are the two aspects under which the one ultimate principle is symbolized. This breath or motion, the eternal cause, can also be described as force (SD 1.93 fn., speaking of the eternal nidāna or cause, the Oi-Ha-Hou): “. . . it is a term to denote the ceaseless and eternal Cosmic Motion; or rather the Force that moves it, which Force is tacitly accepted as the Deity but never named. It is the eternal kāraṇa, the ever-acting Cause.” This motion or force can also be described as svabhāva, something’s “inherent nature” (The Mahatma Letters, #22, 3rd ed. p. 136): “Their plastic, invisible, eternal, omnipresent and unconscious svabhāva is Force or Motion ever generating its electricity which is life.” The svadhā, “inherent power” or force by which “that one” breathed without air in Ṛg-veda 10.129.2c, is apparently the svabhāva or “inherent nature” of “that one.”
RV 10.129.3. Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning. All this was water without distinguishing sign. That one germ which was covered by the void was born through the power of heat.
“Book of Dzyan,” stanza 1, śloka 5: “Darkness alone filled the boundless all, for father, mother and son were once more one, . . .”; 2.3: “The hour had not yet struck; the ray had not yet flashed into the germ; . . .”; 2.5: “. . . Darkness alone was Father-Mother, svabhāva; and svabhāva was in darkness.”; 2.6: “These two are the Germ, and the Germ is one. . . .”; 3.2: “The vibration sweeps along, touching with its swift wing the whole universe, and the germ that dwelleth in darkness: the darkness that breathes over the slumbering waters of life.”; 3.3: “Darkness radiates light, and light drops one solitary ray into the waters, into the mother deep. The ray shoots through the virgin egg; the ray causes the eternal egg to thrill, and drop the non-eternal germ, which condenses into the world-egg.”
To this we may add a quotation from the “Occult Catechism,” cited in The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 11: “What is it that ever is?” “Space, the eternal aupapāduka (“parentless”).” “What is it that ever was?” “The Germ in the Root.” “What is it that is ever coming and going?” “The Great Breath.” “Then, there are three Eternals?” “No, the three are one. That which ever is is one, that which ever was is one, that which is ever being and becoming is also one: and this is Space.” This goes along with Book of Dzyan 3.8: “Where was the germ, and where was now darkness? Where is the spirit of the flame that burns in thy lamp, oh Lanoo? The germ is that, and that is light; the white brilliant son of the dark hidden father.”
The parallels with darkness and the germ are self-evident. The “water without distinguishing sign” spoken of here in Ṛg-veda 10.129.3b, “All this was water without distinguishing sign,” may be compared with “the great dark waters” in Book of Dzyan 3.7, “Bright Space Son of Dark Space, which emerges from the depths of the great dark waters,” as opposed to “the great waters” at the end of that stanza that are manifested. In the Book of Dzyan it is light rather than the closely related heat in Ṛg-veda 10.129.3d that produces the cosmos. But in Book of Dzyan 3.6 light is heat, “. . . radiant light, which was fire, and heat, and motion,” and in 3.9 light produces heat, which in turn yields the manifested water: “Light is cold flame, and flame is fire, and fire produces heat, which yields water: the water of life in the great mother.” The manifested water symbolizes manifested matter (SD 1.82), which constitutes the manifested cosmos.
RV 10.129.4. Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ], which was the first seed of mind. Sages, having searched in the heart with inspired thought, found out [desire to be] the link of the existent in the non-existent.
The parallel of “desire” (kāma) here in this cosmogonic hymn to Eros in the Greek cosmogony has long been noted by Vedic scholars. In The Secret Doctrine, what is parallel to Eros is the otherwise unknown Fohat (vol. 1, p. 109). Fohat is there described as “the mysterious link between Mind and Matter” (1.16). “Fohat, in his capacity of Divine Love (Eros), the electric Power of affinity and sympathy, is shown allegorically as trying to bring the pure Spirit, the Ray inseparable from the ONE absolute, into union with the Soul, the two constituting in Man the Monad, and in Nature the first link between the ever unconditioned and the manifested” (1.119). This is apparently what the sages found out desire to be in Ṛg-veda 10.129.4, “the link of the existent in the non-existent.” How Fohat or desire functions as the link between the non-existent or ever unconditioned and the existent or manifested is poetically pictured in Book of Dzyan 3.12: “Then svabhāva sends Fohat to harden the atoms. . . .”
RV 10.129.5. Their cord was extended across. Was there a below? Was there an above? There were seed-placers, there were powers; inherent power below, impulse above.
“Book of Dzyan,” stanza 3, śloka 7: “. . . Behold him lifting the veil and unfurling it from east to west. He shuts out the above, and leaves the below to be seen as the great illusion. . . .”
RV 10.129.6. Who really knows? Who here can say? From where has [it] been born? From where [has come] this manifestation? The gods are later than the manifestation of this [cosmos]. Then who knows from what [it] has come into being?
RV 10.129.7. From what this manifestation has come into being, whether [it] was made or whether not, its overseer who is in the highest heaven, he surely knows; or else [he] knows not.
As I hope will be obvious to all who read this, there are close parallels between Ṛg-veda 10.129 and the Book of Dzyan; e.g., what is neither non-existent nor existent, its breathing, darkness, etc. It is true that Blavatsky had access to the anonymous translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129 published by Max Müller in 1859, and even quoted five of its seven verses in The Secret Doctrine facing the opening of the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan. However, a reader not knowing the source of either would far more likely conclude that the brief Ṛg-veda 10.129 was derived from the extensive stanzas of the Book of Dzyan than that the latter were elaborated from Ṛg-veda 10.129.
Now, what can be gained by this comparison? The fact is that the meanings of many Vedic words given in our European language Sanskrit dictionaries are guesses, and likewise the meanings of many Vedic words given in the Sāyaṇa Sanskrit commentaries on the Vedas are also guesses. Comparison with the Book of Dzyan clarifies some of these meanings, providing a new source of information that is no less helpful than guesses based on context or guesses based on late Indian tradition. Conversely, comparison with Ṛg-veda 10.129 shows us the oldest known formulation of what are obviously many of the very same ideas. These ideas, according to ancient Indian tradition, are not the speculations of fledgling philosophers, but rather are the result of the direct spiritual vision of advanced sages, coming down to us from an age of truth.
By David Reigle on April 2, 2013 at 1:44 am
Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation”
Translation Notes (continued and concluded)
RV 10.129.6a: kó addhá̄ veda ká ihá prá vocat, “Who really knows? Who here can say?” As listed in Maurice Bloomfield’s Rig-Veda Repetitions (p. 482), this verse quarter is also found in Ṛg-veda 3.54.5a. Verse 3.54.5 is, as translated by Griffith: “What pathway leadeth to the Gods? Who knoweth this of a truth, and who will now declare it? Seen are their lowest dwelling-places only, but they are in remote and secret regions.” Other verses ask the same two questions, using mostly the same words, but with small variations. For example, Ṛg-veda 1.164.18, as translated by Vasudeva S. Agrawala (Vision in Long Darkness, p. 68): “Beneath the Upper Realm and above the Lower One, who knows the father of this Calf? Who as a Sage putting his thoughts into verses has been able to declare whence hath the godlike Mind originated.”
The exact sense of indeclinables such as addhā, here translated as “really,” is sometimes hard to determine. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses it nicely as pāramārthyena, “ultimately.”
RV 10.129.6b: kúta á̄jātā kúta iyáṃ vísṛṣṭiḥ, “From where has [it] been born? From where [has come] this manifestation?” The word visṛṣṭi is often translated as “creation.” I think this is a good translation as long as one sees it as creation out of something, like creating a pot out of clay. Because “creation” is often associated in Western culture as the creation of the world out of nothing, a number of translators have preferred other words, such as the more literal “emanation.” I have used “manifestation” for visṛṣṭi.
The usual form of the word for creation or manifestation is sṛṣṭi, without the prefix vi-. Gonda apparently came to regard visṛṣṭi in this verse as referring not to just “creation,” but rather to “secondary creation,” as he translated it in his 1983 article, “The Creator and his Spirit” (p. 33, fn. 138): “According to ṚV 10, 121, 9 he [Prajāpati] created earth, sky and waters, the ‘secondary creation’ (visṛṣṭi) of 10, 129, 6.” In his 1966 translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129 (p. 696), Gonda had translated visṛṣṭi as “creation-in-differentiation” and “creation (emanation)-in-differentiation.” Primary and secondary creation are distinguished in the purāṇas.
The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentaries understand the two occurrences of kutaḥ, “from where,” as asking from what upādāna-kāraṇa, “material cause,” and from what nimitta-kāraṇa, “instrumental cause.” These terms are often used in Indian philosophical texts, so their meaning is taken for granted in the Sāyaṇa commentaries. Using the analogy of a pot, the material cause is the clay, and the instrumental cause is the potter.
RV 10.129.6c: arvá̄g devá̄ asyá visárjanena, “The gods are later than the manifestation of this [cosmos].” The word visarjana is a synonym of visṛṣṭi, so I have also translated it as “manifestation.” We here have it in the instrumental case, visarjanena, going with arvāk, “afterwards, later.” Expressions with arvāk normally use the ablative case, but we occasionally see other cases used with it if required by the meter. I have here translated the instrumental visarjanena in the ablative sense, “than the manifestation.”
RV 10.129.6d: áthā kó veda yáta ābabhú̄va, “Then who knows from what [it] has come into being?” We here see a common feature of Vedic verse: the lengthening of final vowels in order to fit the meter. The indeclinable word atha has here become athā, just like vyoma became vyomā in 10.129.1b. That this has occurred is confirmed in the pada-pāṭha, which gives the words without the lengthened final vowel.
RV 10.129.7ab: iyáṃ vísṛṣṭir yáta ābabhú̄va yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná, “From what this manifestation has come into being, whether [it] was made or whether not.” The big question in understanding this verse pertains to the verb dadhe, “produced, made, established, upheld.” No subject is stated, and one must be supplied for it. Moreover, the intended voice of this perfect tense middle voice verb is uncertain, since the middle voice may also be used in a passive voice sense (William Dwight Whitney, Sanskrit Grammar, p. 201, paragraph 531, and p. 361, para. 998c-d; A. A. Macdonell, Vedic Grammar, p. 312, para. 410.A.a, and A Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 117, para. 121; see also Maurice Bloomfield and Franklin Edgerton, Vedic Variants, vol. I: The Verb, pp. 51-52). If taken in the middle voice sense, an object must also be supplied for this transitive verb. The whole question of the meaning and usage of the middle voice in the Ṛg-veda, and why it often appears to be used in a passive sense, was studied in detail by Jan Gonda in his 1979 book, The Medium in the Ṛgveda. His conclusion that it may best be described as an “eventive” voice will be discussed below, in relation to this verse, after considering the more immediate question of what the subject of dadhe is here.
Among 36 English translations, a majority (17) supply “it” as the subject, referring to the preceding words, iyaṃ visṛṣṭi, “this creation/manifestation.” A minority (11) supply “he” as the subject, referring to the words adhyakṣa, “overseer,” and saḥ, “he,” from the next line. A few (5) supply a generic “any one,” or “any,” or “one” as the subject, not referring either to the preceding “this” or the following “he.” A few (3) supply “it” as the subject, referring to the preceding “that from which this creation came into being.” The German translation by Karl Geldner (1951) supplies “he” as the subject and takes the verb dadhe in its middle voice sense. The German translation by Paul Thieme (1964) and the French translation by Louis Renou (1956, 1967) supply “it” as the subject and take the verb dadhe in a passive voice sense. Among the three extant Sanskrit commentaries, Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava and the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary supply “he” (saḥ) as the subject. The former explains “he” as the sraṣṭṛ, the “creator,” and the latter explains “he” as paramātman, the “supreme self,” and then as īśvara, “God.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary supplies “that” (tat) as the subject, referring to the preceding “that from which this manifestation has come into being,” explained as the upādāna-kāraṇa, the “material cause.”
I have accepted the impersonal pronoun “it” rather than the personal pronoun “he” as the unstated subject of the verb dadhe here. This is because there is no indication in the previous verses of anything but an evolutionary process of creation or manifestation, nothing that would require the involvement or direction of a personal being as creator. I see no reason to believe that this early hymn had God under consideration as the maker of the cosmos (see my article: “God’s Arrival in India”). If the adhyakṣa, “overseer,” from the next line was the creator, one would have expected him to appear at the beginning of this hymn, not at the end. This is to say nothing of the question posed in this last verse as to whether or not even he knows from what this manifestation has come into being.
Those who supply “he” as the subject take the verb dadhe in its middle voice sense, “he produced, made, established, upheld,” and also supply an object, “it” (this creation); saying, “whether he made it or whether not.” Those who supply “any one” as the subject do the same; saying, “whether any one made it or whether not.” Those who supply “it” as the subject, referring to the preceding “that from which this creation came into being,” do the same; saying, “whether it (that from which this creation came into being) made it (this creation) or whether not” (so Bose 1966: “whether It had held it together or It had not”; verbatim except for the capital letters in de Nicolás 1976; nearly the same in Panikkar 1977: “whether it held it firm or it did not”).
Those who supply “it” as the subject, referring to “this creation or manifestation,” usually take the verb dadhe in a passive sense, “it was produced, was made, was established, was upheld”; saying, “whether it was made or whether not.” No object is stated in a passive construction (since the object has become the subject). A few who supply “it” as the subject, referring to “this creation or manifestation,” take the verb dadhe in its middle voice sense, and also supply an object, “itself”; saying, “whether it made itself or whether not” (Whitney 1882; Bloomfield 1908; Edgerton 1965 only in a footnote: “perhaps, ‘established itself’”; O’Flaherty 1981: “whether it formed itself”). Here the reflexive sense of the middle (ātmane-pada) voice, where the action is directed back on itself, is expressed by the word “itself.” In the translations that supply “he” as the subject (11), or “any one” as the subject (5), or “it” as the subject, referring to the preceding “that from which this creation came into being” (3), the reflexive sense of the middle voice is not expressed. The reflexive sense in these cases would be, “he made it for himself.”
When the verb dadhe is taken in a passive sense, “it was produced, made, established, upheld,” no agency is expressed in these translations (even though it could be). The action could be done automatically or by itself (saying, “it was made by itself”), or by some unspecified other (“by it” or “by him”) or a host of others (“by them”). The agentless passive reading, as stated by Maurer (1975, p. 234), “by omitting all mention of the agency, might imply either the kind of evolution which has been the principal subject of the hymn or some cosmic agency, not necessary the overseer, however.” When the verb dadhe is taken in its middle sense, and accepting “it” rather than “he” as the subject, it pretty much has to be understood as “it made itself.” This, as already stated, expresses the reflexive sense of the middle (ātmane-pada) voice. This is apparently how W. Norman Brown took it in his two translations (1941, 1965), “whether spontaneously or not.” While I find the middle sense as “[it] made [itself]” quite plausible as what the hymn intended, I have opted for translating dadhe in an agentless passive sense, “[it] was made,” as allowing for a wider range of possibilities.
The need to translate middle voice verbs in many cases as if they were passive voice verbs has long been apparent. This led researchers to try to determine more accurately the precise function of the middle voice in ancient Indo-European languages such as Sanskrit. Jan Gonda concluded that the middle voice is best understood as an “eventive” voice. In his 1960 article, “Reflections on the Indo-European Medium,” he explains what he means by this: “The hypothesis seems to be plausible that a widespread use was already in prehistoric times made of the middle forms to indicate that something comes or happens to a person (or object), befalls him, takes place in the person of the subject so as to affect him etc., without any agens being mentioned, implied, or even known. Very often the subject is a person or other living being and the process may take place even contrary to his wishes, unintentionally, more or less automatically. In the ancient periods of the I.-E. languages this use was very frequent.” (Lingua, vol. 9, 1960, p. 49; reprinted in his Selected Studies, vol. 1, 1975, p. 126). Gonda relates this definition to the known reflexive sense of the middle voice (p. 66 or p. 143): “On the strength of the preceding considerations the hypothesis seems therefore justified that the ‘original’ or ‘essential’ function of the medial voice was not exactly to signify that the subject ‘performs a process that is performed in himself’, but to denote that a process is taking place with regard to, or is affecting, happening to, a person or a thing.”
The above-quoted study by Gonda covered middle voice verbs in the whole range of Indo-European languages, and included many examples from ancient Greek, etc., besides Sanskrit. Gonda then went on to study all the occurrences of middle voice verbs in just the Ṛg-veda. Gonda opens his 1979 book, The Medium in the Ṛgveda, by re-stating his definition of the “eventive” middle voice (pp. 1-2): “this diathesis primarily or essentially served to indicate that a process is taking place with regard to a person who, or thing which, is the subject; that it happens to a person or an object, befalls him (it), is at work in the person or thing which is subject of the sentence so as to affect (it); that that person etc. is in a definite physical or mental condition or in a certain set of circumstances etc., without any agens being mentioned, implied, or even known. Very often the subject is a person or other living being and the process may take place spontaneously, unintentionally, more or less automatically, even contrary to the subject’s wishes.” This voice is not easy for us to understand, or to express in English. This is because, as noted by Gonda partially quoting another writer (p. 3, fn. 10): “the fact that ‘the mode of thought and expression’ that is characteristic of modern English ‘which has no distinction of voices as Sanskrit and Greek possess’ often precludes ‘the possibility of thinking from the standpoint of the (ancient) Indians’.”
Among the many examples of the “eventive” character of the middle voice, Gonda gives the passage here under discussion from Ṛg-veda 10.129.7. This illustrates a way to translate the middle voice verb dadhe as an eventive. He quotes this (p. 19) from his 1966 translation: “this creation (emanation)-in-differentiation . . . , whether it is the result of an act of founding (establishing: yádi vā dadhé) or not . . .” The case that Gonda has made for the middle voice being an eventive voice is thorough and, I think, conclusive. While I fully accept Gonda’s explanation of the middle voice as an eventive voice, I have chosen to translate this phrase using an agentless English passive, “was made” (“whether [it] was made or whether not”), in order to avoid a rather lengthy paraphrase of the verb as “is the result of an act of founding.” Like the eventive, which is used without any agent being mentioned, implied, or even known, a passive can also be used without an agent. This, it seems to me, is the main point here in this verse.
RV 10.129.7c: yó asyá̄dhyakṣaḥ paramé výoman, “its overseer who is in the highest heaven.” The noun adhyakṣa is most often translated fairly literally as “overseer.” Here the prefix adhi (adhy) means “over,” and akṣa, “eye,” means “seer.” Like the English word overseer, the Sanskrit word adhyakṣa has the meanings “controller,” “supervisor,” “the one in charge,” etc. However, it may be intended here simply as “surveyor,” “one who surveys,” as some have translated it. Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava glosses it quite literally as adhidraṣṭṛ, “overseer.” The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses it as īśvara, “God.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary glosses it as svāmī, “master.”
The word vyoman has been taken as a locative, as if vyomani, “in the heaven,” agreeing with the locative parame, “in the highest.” The apparently elided final “i” of vyoman as a locative is not uncommon in Vedic verse. For example, in Ṛg-veda 10.5.7, we see the same phrase, parame vyoman, “in the highest heaven.”
RV 10.129.7d: só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda, “he surely knows; or else [he] knows not.” The particle aṅga can mean “just, only,” or “indeed, surely,” and translators have to choose one or the other. Either one could be intended. It is taken as “just, only,” in Sāyaṇa’s Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary, where it is glossed as eva, while it is taken as “indeed, surely,” in Sāyaṇa’s Ṛg-veda commentary, where it is defined as prasiddhau, and glossed as api nāma. Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava does not gloss it. It can also be a vocative, sometimes translated as “sir” (Kunhan Raja takes it this way here), “dear one,” etc.
By Ingmar de Boer on March 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm
In SD I, 280 we find that by HPB the “Causeless Cause of All Causes” is identified with kāraṇa:
The ever unknowable and incognizable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all causes, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and ever untrodden ground of our heart — invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through “the still small voice” of our spiritual consciousness.
In SD I, 41 (explaining stanza I śloka 5) is stated that in the period of pralaya, when the universe has returned to its “one primal and eternal cause”, that
“Karana” — eternal cause — was alone.
In SD I, 93 we find in stanza IV śloka 4 the “eternal nidana”, or nidāna, which is a Sanskrit word for cause, the first cause in particular, or the cause of existence (cf. Monier-Williams), which in stanza IV śloka 5 is identified with “’DARKNESS,’ [...], ADI-NIDANA SVABHAVAT”. In the note in SD I, 93n we find an explanation of the word nidāna:
* [...] but in this instance, it is a term to denote the ceaseless and eternal Cosmic Motion; or rather the Force that moves it, which Force is tacitly accepted as the Deity but never named. It is the eternal Karana, the ever-acting Cause.
Here, nidāna is identified with kāraṇa, and with the “force” resulting in cosmic motion. The concept of abstract motion is, together with abstract space and abstract duration, one of the central concepts in the esoteric philosophy presented in The Secret Doctrine. In the Book of Dzyan, this unmanifested aspect behind cosmic motion is symbolised as the great breath, while cosmic motion itself is called the divine breath.
In SD II, 46 we find out some more about kāraṇa, in a quotation from the “Commentary”:
“After the changeless (avikâra) immutable nature (Essence, sadaikarûpa) had awakened and changed (differentiated) into (a state of) causality (avayakta), and from cause (Karana) had become its own discrete effect (vyakta), from invisible it became visible. The smallest of the small (the most atomic of atoms, or aniyâmsam aniyâsam) became one and the many (ekanekárûpa); and producing the Universe produced also the Fourth Loka (our Earth) in the garland of the seven lotuses. The Achyuta then became the Chyuta.*
We see that kāraṇa itself changes into its own effect, which is called vyakta, a term generally indicating that which is manifested, or the manifested universe, but another one of its meanings (as an adjective) is visible, apparent or caused to appear. (Monier-Williams)
In the Viṣṇupurāṇa (VP), in the 1840 translation of Horace H. Wilson, which was regularly consulted by HPB, we find in Book I chapter II page 8, in Wilson’s notes, explanations of the Sanskrit terms from the quotation of the Commentary:
2. This address to Vishńu pursues the notion that he, as the supreme being, is one, whilst he is all: he is Avikára, not subject to change; Sadaikarúpa, one invariable nature: he is the liberator (tára), or he who bears mortals across the ocean of existence: he is both single and manifold (ekánekarúpa): and he is the indiscrete (avyakta) cause of the world, as well as the discrete (vyakta) effect; or the invisible cause, and visible creation.
4. Ańíyánsam ańíyasám, ‘the most atomic of the atomic;’ alluding to the atomic theory of the Nyáya or logical school.
5. Or Achyuta; a common name of Vishńu, from a, privative, and chyuta, fallen; according to our comment, ‘he who does not perish with created things.’ The Mahábhárata interprets it in one place to mean, ‘he who is not distinct from final emancipation;’ and in another to signify, ‘exempt from decay’. A commentator on the Káśikhańd́a of the Skánda Puráńa explains it, ‘he who never declines (or varies) from his own proper nature.’
What it means that we find these terms here in one page in Wilson’s notes is, I think, open for debate.
In the text of the Viṣṇupurāṇa (VP I.II.1-5) we can try to identify the terms from the quotation of SD II, 46:
The idea of the Causeless Cause, or the cause, kāraṇa, becoming its own effect, vyakta, is formulated by Wilson in note 3 on page 8:
The world is therefore not regarded by the Pauranics as an emanation or an illusion, but as consubstantial with its first cause.
Of course much more could be said about this passage in the VP, relating to the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan, an example being that in VP I.II.4, Viṣṇu is called mūlabhūta, the root of the world (Wilson), a term found in stanza II śloka 1 (SD I, 53).
Returning to our theme here, we might turn to another location in the stanzas, in SD I, 107-108, stanza V śloka 2:
2. [...] (a). THE DZYU BECOMES FOHAT; [...] RUNS CIRCULAR ERRANDS. [...] TAKES THREE, AND FIVE, AND SEVEN STRIDES THROUGH THE SEVEN REGIONS ABOVE AND THE SEVEN BELOW (the world to be). HE LIFTS HIS VOICE, AND CALLS THE INNUMERABLE SPARKS (atoms) AND JOINS THEM TOGETHER (c).
In HPB’s extensive commentary to (c) we find (in SD I, 109):
When the “Divine Son” breaks forth, then Fohat becomes the propelling force, the active Power which causes the ONE to become TWO and THREE — on the Cosmic plane of manifestation. The triple One differentiates into the many, and then Fohat is transformed into that force which brings together the elemental atoms and makes them aggregate and combine.
and (in SD I, 110):
By the action of the manifested Wisdom, or Mahat, represented by these innumerable centres of spiritual Energy in the Kosmos, the reflection of the Universal Mind, which is Cosmic Ideation and the intellectual Force accompanying such ideation, becomes objectively the Fohat of the Buddhist esoteric philosopher. Fohat, running along the seven principles of AKASA, acts upon manifested substance or the One Element, as declared above, and by differentiating it into various centres of Energy, sets in motion the law of Cosmic Evolution, which, in obedience to the Ideation of the Universal Mind, brings into existence all the various states of being in the manifested Solar System.
Combining the phrase “THE DZYU BECOMES FOHAT “ from stanza V śloka 2 with this last quote, we must conclude that the dzyu is identical to “the reflection of the Universal Mind, which is Cosmic Ideation and the intellectual Force accompanying such ideation”. Dzyu becomes fohat “when the ‘Divine Son’ breaks forth”, i.e. at the moment the universe comes into manifestation, so we can conclude that dzyu is the unmanifested principle which is at the basis of fohat, the (manifested) “propelling force” which “sets in motion the law of Cosmic Evolution”. This principle is of course kāraṇa, which is, as we have seen, the “force” resulting in cosmic motion, or the principle of abstract motion, in the Book of Dzyan symbolised as the great breath.
By David Reigle on at 5:29 am
Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation”
Translation Notes (continued)
RV 10.129.5: This verse is repeated in the “white” or Śukla Yajur-veda, i.e., the Vājasaneyi-saṃhitā, in both the Mādhyandina recension at 33.74, and in the Kāṇva recension at 32.6.5 (or 32.74).
RV 10.129.5a: tiraścí̄no vítato raśmír eṣām, “Their cord was extended across.” The word raśmi can mean “cord, string, rope,” or it can mean “ray,” as in a ray of light. The two Sāyaṇa commentaries accept “ray,” while most translators accept “cord” (Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava does not gloss it). I have accepted “cord” because of parallels to two Atharva-veda hymns among the small number that pertain to this subject matter. In Atharva-veda 10.8.37-38 the phrase sūtram vitatam, “extended/stretched thread,” (in which created beings are woven) occurs twice. This phrase is directly parallel to the phrase here in Ṛg-veda 10.129.5, vitato raśmi (“extended cord”), and would incline us to take raśmi as a cord rather than as a ray. In Atharva-veda 13.1.6 the supreme parameṣṭhin stretched out (tatāna) the tantu, the “thread/cord,” after rohita gave birth to heaven and earth. Here we have not only a stretched out thread or cord, but even the ideas around it are parallel.
These Atharva-veda parallels were noticed already by Lucian Scherman in his 1887 book, Philosophische Hymnen aus der Rig- und Atharva-Veda-Sanhitâ. He there (p. 10) gave a partial German translation of Atharva-veda verses 10.8.37, 13.1.6, and 2.1.5, all of which speak of an extended or stretched thread (German “Faden”). The first reference, to 10.8.37, was picked up and repeated by Hermann Oldenberg in his Ṛgveda: Textkritische und exegetische Noten (vol. 2, 1912, p. 347), by A. A. Macdonell in his Vedic Reader for Students (1917, p. 210), and also by Karl Geldner in his German translation of the Rig-Veda (vol. 3, 1951, p. 360, note on 5a). A full English translation of Atharva-veda verses 10.8.37-38 was given by Jwala Prasad in his article, “The Philosophical Significance of Ṛgveda X, 129, 5, and Verses of an Allied Nature” (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1929, pp. 586-599, attached), p. 596:
“One who would know the stretched thread across which these creatures are woven; one who would know the thread of this thread, it is he who would know the great Brāhmaṇa.”
“I know the stretched thread across which these creatures are woven, I know the thread of this thread, hence (I know) that which is great Brāhmaṇa.”
Atharva-veda hymn 10.8 appears to be a continuation of the somewhat cosmological hymn 10.7 describing skambha. Skambha means “prop, support, pillar,” and is understood to be the “frame” of creation, as translated by William Dwight Whitney (1905). Hymn 10.7 is cosmological in the sense that skambha is the all, the entire universe, whose parts are its parts. Skambha is therefore in one sense the same as the ultimate brahman or ātman. The Atharvavedīya Bṛhat Sarvānukramaṇikā gives the “deity” (devatā) or subject of each hymn. For hymn 10.7 it gives “skambha or adhyātma,” and for hymn 10.8 it gives “adhyātma” (ed. Vishva Bandhu, 1966, pp. 83, 84). Adhyātma refers to the ātman or to the inner side of things. There was once an adhyātma school of Vedic interpretation (see the important article on this: “The Vedas and Adhyātma Tradition,” by Vasudeva S. Agrawala, Indian Culture, vol. 5, no. 3, Jan. 1939, pp. 285-292, attached). Atharva-veda verse 10.7.28 says that in the beginning skambha poured forth the golden germ (hiraṇya-garbha). In verse 10.7.34 wind or air is the breath of skambha. In verses 10.7.17 and 10.8.20 the “great Brāhmaṇa” spoken of in the verses 37-38 quoted above is apparently identified with skambha.
A brief English summary followed by a translation of most of Atharva-veda hymn 10.7 and part of hymn 10.8 was given by John Muir in his Original Sanskrit Texts, vol. 5, 1870, pp. 378-386, in the section titled, “Skambha and Brahma.” This preceded the first published English translation of the whole Atharva-veda by Ralph Griffith (1895-1896), and the posthumously published full translation (less chap. 20) by Whitney already mentioned (1905), both made independently of each other. Four more English translations of the Atharva-veda have been published. Three of these are connected with the Ārya Samāj and were made in accordance with the monotheistic interpretation of the Vedas put forward in the late 1800s by Svāmī Dayānanda Sarasvatī. These are by Devi Chand (1982), Vaidya Nath Shastri (2 vols., 1984), and Satya Prakash Sarasvati (5 vols., 1992, less chap. 20). Devi Chand translates verse 10.8.38 as: “I know the Vast Matter, on which all these creatures are strung. I know the Efficient Cause of Matter, Who is God the Almighty.” The translation by R. L. Kashyap (6 vols., 2010-2012) was made in accordance with the psychological interpretation of the Vedas put forward by Sri Aurobindo.
What I regard as the best of the three references given by Scherman, Atharva-veda verse 13.1.6, does not seem to have been picked up by Vedic scholars. Atharva-veda hymn 13.1 is about rohita, the “red,” referring to something that is common to both fire and the sun (yet it is not either of these per se, both of which have many Vedic hymns addressed to them individually as agni (fire) and sūrya (sun), etc.). Verse 13.1.6 first says that rohita gave birth to heaven and earth, placing us in the same setting at the beginning of creation as in Ṛg-veda hymn 10.129. It then speaks of the tantu, the “thread, cord, line, web,” that the supreme parameṣṭhin stretched out (tatāna). This hymn 13.1, like hymns 10.7 and 10.8, also has adhyātma as its “deity” (devatā) or subject, and is thus about the inner or higher side of things. Interestingly, the ṛṣi or seer of Ṛg-veda hymn 10.129 is Prajāpati parameṣṭhin, explained by Sāyaṇa as Prajāpati named Parameṣṭhin; i.e., the supreme as the Lord of Progeny. This is the same term as the parameṣṭhin here in Atharva-veda 13.1.6 who stretched out the thread or cord. Verse 13.1.6 may be translated as follows:
“The red (rohita) gave birth to heaven and earth. There the supreme (parameṣṭhin) stretched out the thread (tantu). There reposed the unborn (aja) one-footed (eka-pāda). [It] established heaven and earth by [its] strength.”
I have translated this verse with reference to the eight existing English translations known to me. The verb śiśriye in 13.1.6c, like the verb dadhe in Ṛg-veda 10.129.7b (see below), is a perfect tense middle voice verb that can be understood as a passive voice verb (or better, the middle voice should be understood as what Jan Gonda calls an “eventive” voice; see below). Three translators took this verb in a passive sense: Muir (1870, “was sustained”), Whitney (1905, “was supported”), and Kashyap (2010, “was supported”) following Whitney. Like the other five translators, I did not take this verb in a passive sense. My translation, “reposed,” reflects the perfect tense (a past tense) as do those of Bloomfield (1897, “did fix himself”) and Sarasvati (1992, “has taken shelter”), and follows the meaning given by Griffith (1896, “reposeth”), and Shastri (1984, “lies”). The other translation, Chand (1982, “pervades”), is more of a paraphrase. The subject of this verb is aja eka-pāda, translated by me as the “unborn” (aja) “one-footed” (eka-pāda). Some translators take aja in its other meaning, “goat,” thus translating, “the one-footed goat.” It is because I took aja as the “unborn” rather than as a “goat” that I did not take the verb śiśriye in a passive sense. The verb in 13.1.6d, adṛṃhat, given by me as “established” (in agreement with Muir, 1870; Griffith, 1896; Chand, 1982), can also be understood as “made firm” (Whitney, 1905; Bloomfield, 1897; Sarasvati, 1992; Kashyap, 2010), or “holds firm” (Shastri, 1984).
The third reference given by Scherman in 1887 is to Atharva-veda verse 2.1.5. Hymn 2.1 has brahmātma as its “deity” (devatā) or subject, so it is also concerned with the inner or higher side of things. Verse 2.1.5 speaks of the ṛtasya tantuṃ vitatam, the “extended/stretched thread of the cosmic order (ṛta),” that the speaker of the hymn beholds. This gives us a third parallel to the Ṛg-veda 10.129.5 phrase, vitato raśmi (“extended cord”). The rest of the verse, however, is not clear. It speaks of gods (deva), their immortality, and moving in some way in a common birthplace or origin (yoni). Because of its obscurity of meaning, I have not counted this verse as a parallel used by me. Similarly, there is a possible but uncertain parallel in the famous hymn Ṛg-veda 1.164, whose verse 5 speaks of the sages (kavi) stretching out seven threads (tantu). This verse is, as translated by Vasudeva S. Agrawala (Vision in Long Darkness, 1963, p. 31):
“Immature in understanding, undiscerning in spirit, I ask where the stations of the Gods exist. When the Calf had become the yearling, the Sages [kavi] spread the Seven Threads [tantu] to form a web.”
The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentaries take raśmi as a “ray,” both comparing it to a ray of the sun (sūrya-raśmi). In order to comprehend what it is a ray of, we have to know how these two commentaries take the pronoun eṣām, “of them, their.” For most translators, the obvious referent for this pronoun is the sages (kavi) from the immediately preceding verse quarter. In support of this, Geldner (1951) gives references to Ṛg-veda 1.159.4 and 10.5.3d. Checking these, we see that they both refer to a thread (tantu) of the sages (kavi). In the translation by Griffith (1892), the first reference says: “They, the refulgent Sages, weave within the sky, yea, in the depths of sea, a web for ever new.” The second reference says: “they wove the Sage’s thread with insight.” Jwala Prasad in his article on this verse (1929, pp. 594-595) provides evidence that the sages or kavis referred to are the Vedic deities called the Ṛbhus. The Ṛbhus are called kavis, being skillful workmen, and according to Ṛg-veda 4.34.9 they divided the universe into heaven and earth. The Sāyaṇa commentaries, however, do not take the pronoun eṣām here as referring to the sages (kavi).
According to the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary on 10.129.5, the pronoun eṣām, “of them,” refers to avidyā-kāma-karmaṇām, “of ignorance, desire, and karma.” These three, made by beings in the previous manifestation of the cosmos, are the cause of the creation or emanation of the about to be manifested cosmos. The raśmi, “ray,” is of these; it is the ray of ignorance, desire, and karma. It is the kārya-varga, the “multitude of effects,” produced by these three causes. It is therefore the “created universe,” as paraphrased by Jwala Prasad (1929, p. 598). This Sāyaṇa commentary says: “Just as a ray of the sun, immediately upon arising, in a mere wink pervades the whole world all at once, so this ray, which is the multitude of effects, quickly pervading everything, was extended or spread out.” Here the questions asked in the next verse quarter, “Was there a below? Was there an above?,” are also being explained. Because this ray of karmic effects manifests so quickly, it is hardly possible to determine a sequence of above or below in the manifestation of the cosmos.
The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary gives us yet another take on the pronoun eṣām and the raśmi as a “ray.” It says that the ray (raśmi), the same as a ray of the sun (sūrya-raśmi-samāna), is a certain light of itself (svayam-prakāśa), something that is consciousness (caitanya-padārtha). The pronoun “of them” refers to everything that makes up the world (jagad-vastu), in the form of the elements and what is made of the elements (bhūta-bhautika-rūpa). So the ray is the paramātman or highest self, in the form of consciousness (caitanya-rūpa), that pervades everything. It is the light (prakāśa) that shines in everything. The questions asked in the next verse quarter, “Was there a below? Was there an above?,” are explained accordingly. Because the ray of the light of consciousness is shining in everything, it is not possible to speak of it in one particular place such as above or below.
Related to the idea of a “ray” of consciousness, a few translators have understood raśmi here as a “line” of thought or a “line” of vision of the mind’s eye (e.g., Maurer 1975, pp. 228, 230: “their line (of vision)”).
RV 10.129.5b: adháḥ svid āsí̄3d upári svid āsī3t, “Was there a below? Was there an above?” As noted under 10.129.1d, the questions made by interrogatives in Sanskrit can be understood in more than one way. Thus, this could also be asking, “Was [it] below? Was [it] above?,” etc. For the interpretations of the two Sāyaṇa commentaries on what these questions are asking about, see the paragraphs immediately above.
RV 10.129.5c: retodhá̄ āsan mahimá̄na āsan, “There were seed-placers, there were powers.” The two nouns in this verse quarter are etymologically clear, but exactly what they refer to is unclear. For the noun retodhāḥ, “seed-placers,” consisting of retas + dhā, the meaning of retas (“seed, semen, rain”) has been discussed under 10.129.4b. The verb-root dhā means primarily to “put” or “place.” It can also mean to “bear,” so that retodhāḥ could also be translated as “seed-bearers.” Who or what, specifically, does this term refer to? It can refer to Agni (Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 184.108.40.206), to Soma (Ṛg-veda 9.86.39), to Soma as the moon (Maitrāyaṇī-saṃhitā 1.6.9), to bulls (Ṛg-veda 5.69.2), to rain as a bull (Ṛg-veda 7.101.6), etc. It may be generic here. Retodhāḥ has also been translated as “impregnators” or as “fathers.”
The noun mahimānaḥ means literally, “greatnesses.” It can refer to “mighty forces” or “powers,” as I have translated it here, and as I have translated it or its synonym mahinā in 10.129.3d. These “greatnesses” or “powers” can also be the “mighty ones,” the “gods” (deva) of the Vedic pantheon, as for example in Ṛg-veda 1.164.50: “By means of yajña the gods [devāḥ] performed their yajña: those were the primeval ordinances. Those mighty ones [mahimānaḥ] attained the height of heaven, where the Sādhya Gods of old dwell.” (translated by Vasudeva S. Agrawala, Vision in Long Darkness, p. 193). Indeed, the Vedic gods have long been equated with powers. See on this the 1957 book by Jan Gonda, Some Observations on the Relations between “Gods” and “Powers” in the Veda, a propos of the Phrase sūnuḥ sahasaḥ. Gonda there writes (p. 32): “It is clear that a mighty person and his specific might were—like a god and his śakti- in later times, when the latter was considered his spouse—conceived as a kind of ‘unité-dualité’, as a pair of complements forming unity.” Again, referring to names of deities such as sahasaḥ sūnuḥ, “son of power,” for Agni, Gonda writes (p. 50):
“The idea underlying these names is, irrespective of the vagueness of the conception of the divine powers, no doubt the conviction that every superhuman potency or phenomenon has two aspects, which can for the sake of simplicity be called ‘personal’ and ‘impersonal’, or—to express it otherwise—the belief that there must be sentient and rational beings ‘possessing’, supervising and representing the mighty and often dangerous powers which make their presence felt in the universe, beings which, if need be, can dispose of these powers.”
RV 10.129.5d: svadhá̄ avástāt práyatiḥ parástāt, “inherent power below, impulse above.” The word svadhā, which I have translated as “inherent power,” has been discussed above under 10.129.2.c. What is the inherent power by which the “one” breathed without air could be simply “force” below. I have retained “inherent power” for consistency of translation.
The noun prayati, tentatively taken by me as “impulse,” vies with ābhu for being the least understood word in the hymn (with svadhā being a close third). Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava glosses prayati as yajamānānāṃ pradānam, the “offering of the sacrificers,” and glosses the preceding svadhā (which I have taken as “inherent power,” as in verse 2) as udakam, “water.” The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses prayati as bhoktā (bhoktṛ), the “enjoyer, eater, experiencer,” referring to the preceding svadhā, which he here glosses as anna, “food,” and this as bhogya, what is “to be enjoyed, eaten, experienced.” It may be noted that the strange-sounding glosses of svadhā as udaka, “water,” by Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava, and as anna, “food,” by Sāyaṇa, have their basis in the ancient Vedic word-list called the Nighaṇṭu, where svadhā occurs at 1.12 in a list of names for udaka, “water,” and at 2.7 in a list of names for anna, “food.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary glosses prayati as paramātmā (paramātman), the “highest self,” in a complementary pair with the preceding svadhā, which he glosses as māyā, “illusion,” or avidyā, “ignorance,” and this as pārameśvarī śakti, the feminine “highest god power,” the power of paramātman, the “highest self.” He then compares the two of them as śakti, “power,” and paramātman, the “highest self,” to prakṛti, “matter, substance,” and puruṣa, “spirit,” respectively.
The existing English translations of prayati in this hymn are similarly diverse. Starting with the most recent, these are: Kashyap 2007, “purpose”; Hock 2007, “will”; Brereton 1999, “offering”; Sarasvati & Vidyalankar 1987, “the creator’s effort”; O’Flaherty 1981, “giving-forth”; Panikkar 1977, “forward move”; de Nicolás 1976, [not translated?, typographical error?]; Maurer 1975, “impulse”; Le Mee 1975, “the Will”; Miller 1971, “will”; Dumont 1969, “impulse”; Gonda 1966, “willingness (to give oneself)”; Bose 1966, “forward movement”; Edgerton 1965, “impellent force”; Brown 1965 and 1941, “emanation”; Kunhan Raja 1963, “activity”; Mehta 1956, “energy”; Coomaraswamy 1933, “Purpose”; Jwala Prasad 1929, “the act of offering”; Thomas 1923, “endeavour”; Macdonell 1922 and 1917, “impulse”; Müller 1899, “will”; Griffith 1892, “energy”; Wallis 1887, “the presentation of offerings”; Kaegi 1886, “striving”; Whitney 1882, “offering”; Gough 1882, “energy”; Monier-Williams 1875, “active forces that energized”; Muir 1870 and 1863, “energy”; Wilson 1860?, “the eater” [of food]; Anonymous 1859, “Power and Will”; Colebrooke 1805, “he, who heeds.” It may be noted that translations of the preceding word svadhā are equally diverse, and some of the same English words used for prayati are used for svadhā.
Etymologically, the noun prayati may be derived either from the verb-root yam, in its meaning “give, offer,” or from the verb-root yat, in its meaning “exert oneself, make effort”; these along with the prefix pra, “forth.” The first of these, yam as “offer,” may be seen in the above translations, “giving-forth,” “offering,” “the act of offering,” “the presentation of offerings.” The second of these, yat as “make effort,” may be seen in the majority of the above translations, including “effort,” “energy,” “impellent force,” “impulse,” “will,” “purpose,” “striving,” “activity,” “active forces that energized.” Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava takes prayati as derived from yam, “give, offer,” glossing it as pradāna, “gift, offering.” The Sāyaṇa commentaries take prayati as derived from yat, “exert oneself, make effort” (or simply “act” in some contexts). It is explained in his Ṛg-veda commentary with the noun prayatitṛ, “one who acts” (not prayantṛ, “one who offers”), as the bhoktṛ, the “enjoyer, eater, experiencer.” It is explained in his Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary with the verb prayatate and the noun prayatna. He there says that the paramātman in which that power, i.e., svadhā, exerts itself/acts (prayatate), being the basis for the exercise (prayatna) of that power, is the prayati.
For parallel passages in which prayati occurs, throughout the Vedic texts, we can now consult the monumental 16-volume Vedic Word-Concordance, by Vishva Bandhu and his assistants (Hoshiarpur: Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute, 1935-1965; rev. ed. of vol. 2, parts 1 and 2, 1973; rev. ed. of vol. 1, part 1, 1976; the 2nd eds. of the other volumes are unrevised reprints). For just the Ṛg-veda, besides Hermann Grassmann’s long standard 1873 Wörterbuch zum Rig-Veda, we can now also (or instead) use the 1951 Indices volume (vol. 5) to the Vaidika Saṃśodhana Maṇḍala edition of the Ṛgveda-Saṃhitā, or the 1966 Indices volume (vol. 8) to the Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute edition of the Ṛgveda.
The noun prayati occurs in the Ṛg-veda in three other places, at 1.109.2, 1.126.5, and 8.69.18. In these places it apparently means “gift” or “offering,” and thus would be derived from the root yam. This meaning is based on context, and is also stated by the commentators. For example, 8.69.18 is (Wilson’s translation): “The Priyamedhas have reached the ancient dwelling-place of these deities, having strewed the sacred grass and placed their oblations after the manner of a pre-eminent offering [prayati].” At 1.109.2, where Skandasvāmin’s commentary is available, he writes: prayatir dānārthaḥ, “prayati has the meaning ‘gift’.” He then also glosses it with pradāna, “offering.” Both Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava and the Sāyaṇa commentary gloss prayati in all three of these places as pradāna, “offering.” The context of prayati in these three verses is, however, quite different from its context here in 10.129.5.
The noun prayati also occurs in the Yajur-veda, both in the “white” or Śukla Yajur-veda, and in the “black” or Kṛṣṇa Yajur-veda. In the “white” or Śukla Yajur-veda, called the Vājasaneyi-saṃhitā, it occurs in the Mādhyandina recension at 18.1 and 20.13, and again at 33.74 where this same Ṛg-veda verse 10.129.5 is repeated. In the Kāṇva recension these places are 19.2.1, 21.7.14, and 32.6.5 (or 32.74). In the “black” or Kṛṣṇa Yajur-veda, the verse corresponding to 18.1 is found at Taittirīya-saṃhitā 220.127.116.11, at Maitrāyaṇī-saṃhitā 2.11.2, at Kāṭhaka-saṃhitā 18.7, and at Kapiṣṭhala-saṃhitā 28.7, while the verse corresponding to 20.13 is found at Maitrāyaṇī-saṃhitā 3.11.8, and at Kāṭhaka-saṃhitā 38.4. In these two verses, 18.1 and 20.13, prayati apparently does not refer to offerings, but rather to something that is (or can be) a quality of a person.
In verse 18.1 of the “white” or Śukla Yajur-veda (Mādhyandina recension) the person says (Griffith’s translation): “May my strength and my gain, and my inclination [prayati] and my influence, and my thought and my mental power, and my praise and my fame, and my renown and my light, and my heaven prosper by sacrifice.” Similarly, in verse 20.13 the person says (Griffith’s translation): “My hair is effort and attempt [prayati], my skin is reverence and approach. My flesh is inclination, wealth my bone, my marrow reverence.” The commentators do not gloss prayati in these places as “offering,” but rather with words derived from the root yat, “make effort” (e.g., Mahīdhara on 20.13: prayatanam, prayatnaḥ). They also bring in another gloss, śuddhi, “purity.”
The verse corresponding to Mādhyandina recension 20.13 is Kāṇva recension 21.7.14. It is numbered 21.111 (also 21.7.16) in the 1978 Śarmā and Śarmā edition of the latter half of the Kāṇva recension that includes a commentary said to be by Sāyaṇa (likely wrongly; see B. R. Sharma’s comments in his Introduction to his edition of the Kāṇva Saṃhitā, vol. 1, 1988, pp. vii-ix). This commentary says: mama madīyāni lomāni prayatiḥ prayatnasya śuddher vā kāraṇāni santīty arthaḥ, “My hairs are prayati, i.e., are the causes (kāraṇāni) of effort (prayatna) or of purity (śuddhi); this is the meaning.” At the verse corresponding to 18.1 in the Taittirīya-saṃhitā (18.104.22.168), the Sāyaṇa commentary simply says: prayatiḥ śuddhiḥ, “prayati is purity (śuddhi).” A. B. Keith here translates prayati as “influence.” Mahīdhara in his commentary on this Mādhyandina Śukla Yajur-veda verse 18.1 says the same as Sāyaṇa, prayatiḥ śuddhiḥ, “prayati is purity (śuddhi).” None of the English translations of Ṛg-veda 10.129.5 take prayati as “purity.”
At Kāṇva recension verse 19.2.1, corresponding to Mādhyandina recension 18.1, the (undisputed) Sāyaṇa commentary on the first half of the Kāṇva recension glosses prayati as prakṛṣṭa-yatanam, “exertion in a high degree.” Ānandabodha’s commentary says the same: prakṛṣṭaṃ yatanaṃ prayatiḥ. I have here cited the Vaidika Saṃśodhana Maṇḍala edition of the Kāṇva Saṃhitā with commentaries, critically edited by B. R. Sharma in four volumes, 1988-1999 (vol. 5, Indices, 2009). The Sāyaṇa commentary then adds: prayatir yatna-viśeṣaḥ, “prayati is a particular kind of effort.” This phrase is not in the 1915 Madhava Sastri edition of the first half of the Kāṇva recension with the Sāyaṇa commentary (p. 169 of the relevant section). This edition has the erroneous prapati instead of prayati, and glosses prapati as prakṛṣṭa-gamanam, “going in a high degree.” The Sharma edition lists gamana as a variant reading for yatana from two of the seven manuscripts used for this commentary. The gloss gamana, “going” (rather than yatana, “exertion”), probably an error, apparently takes prayati as derived from the verb-root yam in its meaning “go.” The English translations of Ṛg-veda 10.129.5 by Bose 1966, “forward movement,” and by Panikkar 1977, “forward move,” take prayati in this meaning.
The noun prayati also occurs in the brāhmaṇas, as these texts repeat the Vedic verses to show their usage in Vedic ritual. The verse corresponding to 20.13 is repeated at Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa 22.214.171.124 (Mādhyandina recension; it is not found in the Kāṇvīya recension), where Julius Eggeling translates prayati as “endeavour.” The Sāyaṇa commentary is apparently missing on this part of the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa, and the extant commentary by Harisvāmin does not specifically gloss prayati here. This verse is also repeated at Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 126.96.36.199, where the Sāyaṇa commentary again brings in śuddhi, “purity,” to gloss prayati: madīyāni lomāni prayatiḥ śuddhi-karāṇi santu, “May my hairs be prayati, i.e., makers of purity (śuddhi-karāṇi).” The commentary by Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra is missing on this part of the Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa, and unfortunately also on 2.8.9, where the whole Ṛg-veda hymn 10.129 is repeated.
As we saw, the Sāyaṇa commentary on this hymn 10.129 differs substantially in the two locations (Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa). The specific verse of this hymn that includes the word prayati (10.129.5) is repeated in the “white” or Śukla Yajur-veda, as noted above, in the Mādhyandina recension at 33.74, and in the Kāṇva recension at 32.6.5 (or 32.74). The commentary that is (probably wrongly) attributed to Sāyaṇa on Kāṇva verse 32.74 (or 32.6.5) matches the Sāyaṇa commentary on this verse as it occurs in the Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa almost word for word, such that one was apparently copied from the other. There, we recall, he glossed prayati with words derived from yat, “make effort,” and equated it with paramātman, the “highest self,” also comparing this with puruṣa, “spirit.” The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary had also glossed prayati with a word derived from yat (prayatitā), but there he equated it with bhoktṛ, the “enjoyer, eater, experiencer.” Mahīdhara, too, in his long commentary here (Mādhyandina recension 33.74) glosses prayati with words derived from yat (prayatate, prayatnavān, prayatnāt, prayatitā), and he equates it with bhoktṛ as does the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary. Uvaṭa, even though explaining this verse in relation to a soma sacrifice, also glosses prayati with a word derived from yat: prayatana, “effort, exertion.”
The noun prayati does not occur in the Upaniṣads. It is found in Yāska’s Nirukta only as it occurs in the Ṛg-veda verse 1.109.2, which is there quoted. In that verse it means “gift, offering,” and thus is glossed in the Nirukta (6.9) as pradāna, “offering.” The noun prayati is not used in classical Sanskrit.
What all the above tells us is that the Sāyaṇa commentaries distinguish two different nouns prayati used in the Vedas: one derived from the root yam, “give, offer”; and one derived from the root yat, “exert oneself, make effort,” with an associated meaning, “purity.” For its usage here in Ṛg-veda 10.129.5, both of the Sāyaṇa commentaries derive prayati from the root yat, “make effort.” Following the method of comparing the usage of a word in all its occurrences throughout the Vedic writings, we saw that the noun prayati does indeed appear to be used in two different senses.
Karl Geldner was among the first of the third generation of Western Vedic scholars, coming after the first generation who fully used the Sāyaṇa commentaries, and the second generation who rejected Sāyaṇa and used comparative word studies instead. Geldner at first went back to Sāyaṇa fully, and then later took the approach that is still widely used today: fully consult the traditional commentaries; fully use comparative word studies; and then when they agree, accept the results; and when they disagree, choose which makes the most sense. Geldner rejected the contention of Hermann Oldenberg (a severe critic of Sāyaṇa) that prayati in Ṛg-veda 10.129.5 must be derived from the root yam (Oldenberg 1912, p. 347), and agreed with the Sāyaṇa commentaries that prayati in Ṛg-veda 10.129.5 is used within the range of meanings derived from yat, “make effort” (Geldner 1907, p. 118; 1908, pp. 14, 22, 32; 1909, p. 213; 1951, vol. 3, p. 360). Such a meaning appears to the majority of translators, including myself, to be intended here. Although the exact meaning of prayati remains uncertain, I think the general idea of “impulse” can be accepted as being within the range of its meanings. This would be true even if prayati did turn out to be a technical term referring to some higher principle such as paramātman, the “highest self,” or puruṣa, “spirit.”
In summary, the noun prayati is an old and rare Vedic word. By tracing out all the references to it given in the Vedic Word-Concordance, we found that it occurs in only six different Vedic verses, however many times those verses may be repeated in the various Vedic texts. In three of these verses, it fairly clearly means “gift, offering.” In two more of these verses it seems to refer to something that is (or can be) a quality of a person, something related to “effort.” Then in the remaining one of these six verses, Ṛg-veda 10.129.5, it appears as some sort of cosmogonic principle, a principle that is above, paired with another principle that is below. That it here functions as a cosmogonic principle is true even if, on analogy to a Vedic sacrifice, we take it symbolically and translate it as “offering.” We should recall that several schools of Vedic interpretation are known to have once existed, from references in the ancient Nirukta by Yāska. The tradition known to us from the now extant commentaries by Sāyaṇa and others represents only one or two of these schools of Vedic interpretation. The others are lost, and no doubt with them a more precise understanding of the meaning of the noun prayati.
By Ingmar de Boer on March 20, 2013 at 12:22 am
In the summary in SD I, 16, a clearer idea of is given of the subject of the first fundamental proposition. This proposition is stating an “Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE”. The summary is meant as a clarification of the text in SD I, 14-16 under (a).
The following summary will afford a clearer idea to the reader.
(1.) The ABSOLUTE; the Parabrahm of the Vedantins or the one Reality, SAT, which is, as Hegel says, both Absolute Being and Non-Being.
The Absolute, Parabrahman.
(2.) The first manifestation, the impersonal, and, in philosophy, unmanifested Logos, the precursor of the “manifested.” This is the “First Cause,” the “Unconscious” of European Pantheists.
The unmanifested Logos, which is apparently different from the Absolute here. We have called this the First Logos. (see The Three Logoi)
(3.) Spirit-matter, LIFE; the “Spirit of the Universe,” the Purusha and Prakriti, or the second Logos.
Literally the Second Logos.
(4.) Cosmic Ideation, MAHAT or Intelligence, the Universal World-Soul; the Cosmic Noumenon of Matter, the basis of the intelligent operations in and of Nature, also called MAHA-BUDDHI.
In our earlier analysis we have identified the Universal World-Soul with the Third Logos.
Confusingly, we found Mahat to correspond to the Second Logos.
The Cosmic Noumenon of Matter is mentioned as “noumenon of matter” in SD I, 84
The expanding and contracting of the Web — i.e., the world stuff or atoms — expresses here the pulsatory movement; for it is the regular contraction and expansion of the infinite and shoreless Ocean of that which we may call the noumenon of matter emanated by Swabhavat, which causes the universal vibration of atoms.
The noumenon of matter is the web
In this passage we can safely assume that “universal vibration of atoms” corresponds to “pulsatory movement”, which is apparently the “expanding and contracting of the Web”. What causes this vibration is not entirely clear from the text. Syntactically “which” could refer either to
1. the regular contraction and expansion
2. the infinite and shoreless Ocean
3. that which we may call the noumenon of matter
Logically, it could not be 1, as the cause of vibration could not be itself. From “for it is the regular…” we can again safely conclude that by the “infinite and shoreless Ocean” is meant the Web. It could therefore not be 2, because the Web apparently does not vibrate by itself. Is the noumenon emanated or the matter? The Ocean apparently consists of the “noumenon of matter”. Therefore the Ocean is still unmanifested, and it is the noumenon that is emanated by Swabhavat, not matter. As the noumenon is itself the substance of the Ocean, Swabhavat will be the cause of its vibration. The alternative would be that the noumenon is the cause of vibration, which means that the Web vibrates because of its substance.
If we return to śloka 10 in stanza III:
AND THIS WEB IS THE UNIVERSE SPUN OUT OF THE TWO SUBSTANCES MADE IN ONE, WHICH IS SWABHAVAT
Here Swabhavat is identified with the substance of the web. Because the substance is twofold in itself, the vibration is an inherent quality of the web, as we can see from śloka 11 in stanza II:
IT (the Web) EXPANDS WHEN THE BREATH OF FIRE (the Father) IS UPON IT; IT CONTRACTS WHEN THE BREATH OF THE MOTHER (the root of Matter) TOUCHES IT.
This means both solutions 3 and 4 could be acceptable, and consequently the “Cosmic Noumenon of Matter” is the Father-Mother substance of the Web, alternatively Swabhavat. As for now it is unclear to me if this might be related to the Second, or the Third Logos.
The “basis of intelligent operations in and of Nature” might be interpreted either way, but seems closer to our idea of the Third Logos than to the Second.
As for mahabuddhi, we can sum up some other relevant passages here.
1. One location is SD I, 451:
Mahat (or Maha-Buddhi) is, with the Vaishnavas, however, divine mind in active operation, or, as Anaxagoras has it, “an ordering and disposing mind, which was the cause of all things,” — [[Nous o diakosmonte kai panton aitios]].
We identified Anaxagoras’ concept of nous as the Third logos, and also the “divine mind in active operation” is exactly what we have defined as the Third Logos. In this quote, mahat (mahabuddhi) is defined differently, not as the Second Logos but as the Third, apparently following “the Vaishnavas”.
The quote “Nous [estin] ho diakosmon te kai panton aitios” is taken from Plato’s Phaedo, 97c, “νοῦς ἐστιν ὁ διακοσμῶν τε καὶ πάντων αἴτιος“, “it is the mind that arranges and causes all things”, in the translation of Harold North Fowler.
2. A second is SD I, 572:
Esoterically the teaching differs: The divine, purely Adi-Buddhic monad manifests as the universal Buddhi (the Maha-buddhi or Mahat in Hindu philosophies) the spiritual, omniscient and omnipotent root of divine intelligence, the highest anima mundi or the Logos.
Here we have mahat (mahabuddhi) as the Second Logos, which is the Logos proper, and HPB’s Anima Mundi.
Mahat is used in different meanings, though it seems to be in a consistent way. Apparently in the summary of the first fundamental proposition, mahat is used conform SD I, 451.
Returning to the structure of the summary, it seems to be
(1) Parabrahman, the Absolute
(2) First Logos
(3) Second Logos
(4) Third Logos
If we try to put this in a diagram, instead of something like
the structure would become something like
Today I consulted the 1893 “Third Revised Edition” of The Secret Doctrine, which – fascinatingly – has a slightly altered summary text, on p. 44 (different page numbering):
(1.) Absoluteness: the Parabrahman of the Vedântins or the One Reality, Sat, [...]
(2.) The First Logos: the impersonal [...]
(3.) The Second Logos: Spirit-Matter [...]
(4.) The Third Logos: Cosmic Ideation [...]
This would mean that the Adyar edition also has this version of the summary, as it is based on the 1893 revised edition. This version of the summary does “afford a clearer idea to the reader”, as opposed to the 1888 summary…
By Ingmar de Boer on March 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm
Studying the first fundamental proposition in The Secret Doctrine, we see that the “Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE” postulated in SD I, 14 is the Rootless Root of “all that was, is, or ever shall be”, Parabrahman, the Absolute.
Two aspects of the Absolute are then described, which are absolute abstract Space and absolute abstract Motion, the latter symbolized in the Book of Dzyan as The Great Breath.
The Great Breath is seen by HPB as precosmic Ideation, while the other aspect of the Absolute is seen as precosmic root-substance (Mūlaprakṛti). Both these are underlying manifested Consciousness and manifested Matter respectively, or Spirit and Matter, Subjectivity and Objectivity in the manifested universe.
These two aspects are obviously referred to in the last sentence of the passage, after the summary, “The ONE REALITY; its dual aspects in the conditioned Universe.”
Mūlaprakṛti: the Veil over Parabrahman
In this context HPB refers to ‘Mr. Subba Row’s four able lectures on the Bhagavad Gita, “Theosophist,” February, 1887.’
In the first of these lectures, on page 304 of The Theosophist Vol. VIII, we find some explanation about the relationship between Parabrahman and Mūlaprakṛti:
From its objective standpoint, Parabrahman appears to it as Mulaprakriti.
The “it” in this sentence is the ego “having an objective consciousness of its own”.
Parabrahman is an unconditioned and absolute reality, and Mulaprakriti is a sort of veil thrown over it. Parabrahman cannot be seen as it is.
What is said here, is that Parabrahman is the Absolute, and Mūlaprakṛti is an aspect of it, only in the sense that we cannot see more of it than that. Mūlaprakṛti is not a component, “aspect” or principle in itself, either separate from or united with Parabrahman. This is different from HPB’s interpretation in her description of the first fundamental principle, as two aspects, pre-Cosmic Ideation and pre-Cosmic Substance.
On page 305 of The Theosophist Vol. VIII, “the highest Trinity that we are capable of understanding” is mentioned, being Mūlaprakṛti, Īśvara (the Logos) and the “conscious energy of he Logos” (i.e. HPB’s fohat). This is the trinity we have defined as the First, Second and Third Logos. (see The Three Logoi)
In SD I, 14 we find:
Thus, then, the first fundamental axiom of the Secret Doctrine is this metaphysical ONE ABSOLUTE — BE-NESS — symbolised by finite intelligence as the theological Trinity.
On page 305, Subba Row describes the “conscious energy of he Logos” as the “Holy Ghost of the Christians”. This confirms that Subba Row thought of this trinity as the “theological Trinity”.
Although HBP does not give any indication which trinity she is referring to, from these correspondences between her description and Subba Row’s, we can assume that she refers to the Trinity that we have defined as the First, Second and Third Logos, which she sees as “symbolising” the “metaphysical ONE ABSOLUTE — BE-NESS”, which is the “Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE” postulated in SD I, 14.
This same problem appears in SD I, 15:
Considering this metaphysical triad as the Root from which proceeds all manifestation, [...]
“This” seems to refer to:
Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), [...]
Again the only possible interpretation here seems the Absolute itself, together with its two aspects. A more fitting interpretation would be though, that the Root is the Parabrahman which she sees as a “metaphysical triad” in itself, or the triad “symbolising” Parabrahman.
By Ingmar de Boer on at 6:55 pm
In SD I, 14 we find
Herbert Spencer has of late so far modified his Agnosticism, as to assert that the nature of the “First Cause,”* which the Occultist more logically derives from the “Causeless Cause,” the “Eternal,” and the “Unknowable,” [...]
where the asterisk refers to the following footnote:
* The “first” presupposes necessarily something which is the “first brought forth, the first in time, space, and rank” — and therefore finite and conditioned. The “first” cannot be the absolute, for it is a manifestation. Therefore, Eastern Occultism calls the Abstract All the “Causeless One Cause,” the “Rootless Root,” and limits the “First Cause” to the Logos, in the sense that Plato gives to this term.
The “First Cause” is the manifested Logos, the Logos proper, “in the sense Plato gives to this term”, which is the Second Logos, as we have shown earlier. (See The Three Logoi)
So the “Abstract All”, the “Causeless One Cause”, the “Rootless Root” is the unmanifested Logos, which we have called the First Logos.
By David Reigle on at 5:03 am
Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation”
Translation Notes (continued)
RV 10.129.4: This verse is repeated in the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka at 1.23.1-2 (Bibliotheca Indica edition, 1871-1872, p. 142; Ānandāśrama edition, vol. 1, 1898, p. 86; both with the commentary by Sāyaṇa), or 1.23.90-91 (Mysore edition, vol. 1, 1900, pp. 137-138; with the commentary by Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra).
RV 10.129.4a: ká̄mas tád ágre sám avartatá̄dhi, “Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ].” The “that” (tat) that desire came upon is taken by almost all the translators to be “that one” (tad ekam) that breathed without air from verse 2. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentaries do not take it as this, and neither do I. The “that” in this verse refers to the ābhu (“germ”) from the previous verse, in accordance with the natural grammatical sequence. How the commentaries understand the ābhu has been given above under 10.129.3cd, in the second paragraph about ābhu. Here, however, we have a decided advantage over what these late commentaries can tell us. The fact that this verse, 10.129.4, is repeated in the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka (1.23.1-2) means that we have available a much older understanding of what it refers to. There this verse has been removed from the rest of the verses in hymn 10.129, so it is not preceded by the verse that speaks of the ābhu (“germ”). In place of the germ, this text in the preceding lines says that Prajāpati is what desire came upon in the beginning. Prajāpati, the “Lord of Progeny,” is so called because he produces all creatures. The whole cosmos is his progeny or offspring.
The Taittirīya-āraṇyaka (of which we unfortunately do not yet have an English translation) says in the lines preceding the verse 10.129.4 from the Ṛg-veda that [all] this was only water, just like 10.129.3b says (“All this was water without distinguishing sign”). It then says that the one (eka) Prajāpati came into being (samabhavat), just like 10.129.3cd says that the one (eka) germ (ābhu) was born (ajāyata). It says that desire (kāma) arose (samavartata) within (antar) in his mind (manas), using the same verb as used in 10.129.4, only without the auxiliary word adhi, “over, upon.” So samavartata, “became, occurred, arose,” could in this text simply be translated as “arose,” while it would be translated as “came upon” or “came over” in 10.129.4. The desire that arose in the mind of Prajāpati is put into words in the text as idam sṛjeyam, “may I create this [cosmos]” (or more literally, “may I emanate this [cosmos]”). After relating this to what a person does, the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka text then gives the whole Ṛg-veda verse 10.129.4. This directly parallel passage makes it clear that what was called the ābhu in Ṛg-veda 10.129 was called Prajāpati in the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka.
The Taittirīya-āraṇyaka parallel provides us with another advantage. On this text we have an additional commentary available, by the pre-Sāyaṇa commentator Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra. While Sāyaṇa glosses Prajāpati here as jagad-īśvara, the “Lord of the World,” Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra glosses Prajāpati here much more in keeping with its Vedic context as hiraṇya-garbha, the “golden germ” (or “golden embryo” or “golden womb”). There is a Ṛg-veda hymn addressed to hiraṇya-garbha, 10.121. In its last verse (10.121.10), hiraṇya-garbha is specifically called Prajāpati. (The doubts about this verse being original, on which see Gonda 1983, p. 31, do not change the fact of hiraṇya-garbha’s identification with Prajāpati; e.g., they are again identified with each other at Taittirīya-saṃhitā 188.8.131.52.) Like hymn 10.129, hymn 10.121 is a cosmogonic hymn. It begins: “The golden germ arose (samavartata) in the beginning (agre).” Since some translators (including myself) have already arrived at a meaning such as “germ” or “potential” for ābhu by other means (see above under 10.129.3cd), there will be no difficulty in identifying the ābhu of 10.129 with hiraṇya-garbha, the “golden germ.”
Another cosmogonic hymn, Ṛg-veda 10.82, includes two verses describing the garbha, “germ.” This hymn is addressed to viśva-karman, “builder of all,” who is also identified with Prajāpati (for references, see Gonda 1983, p. 20). These verses, 5-6, are (as translated by Ralph Griffith, 1892): “That which is earlier than this earth and heaven, before the Asuras and Gods had being,—What was the germ primeval [garbham prathamam] which the waters received where all the Gods were seen together? The waters, they received that germ primeval wherein the Gods were gathered all together. It rested set upon the Unborn’s navel, that One [i.e., the germ primeval] wherein abide all things existing.” The parallels to what is said in 10.129 are obvious.
The germ (garbha) is also said to be wind or air in a hymn addressed to vāta (“wind”), Ṛg-veda 10.168. Its verses 3cd-4ab say about wind (as translated by F. Max Müller, 1891, p. 449): “. . . the friend of the waters, the first-born, the holy, where was he born, whence did he spring? The breath of the gods, the germ [garbha] of the world, that god moves wherever he listeth; . . .” Wind or air is here described as the “first-born” (prathama-jā), the “holy” (ṛtāvan; more literally, “in accord with the cosmic order,” ṛta), like Prajāpati is described as the “first-born of the cosmic order” (prathama-jā ṛtasya) in Taittirīya-āraṇyaka 1.23.9. Prajāpati is directly identified with wind or air in a related passage involving the waters in Taittirīya-saṃhitā 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11. The phrase that Müller translates as the “breath of the gods” is ātmā devānām. It has long been known that breath is an early meaning of the word ātman, as found in the Vedas. A verse from the hymn to hiraṇya-garbha, the “golden germ,” also speaks of the breath of the gods. It is 10.121.7 (as translated by F. Max Müller, 1891, p. 2): “When the great waters went everywhere, holding the germ (Hiranya-garbha), and generating light, then there arose from them the (sole) breath of the gods: . . .” Here the phrase “breath of the gods” is devānām . . . asuḥ. So wind or air as the breath of the gods is also the first-born or first to arise, and is described as the germ of the world.
In summary, just like the germ (ābhu) is the first thing born in Ṛg-veda 10.129, so the golden germ (hiraṇya-garbha) arose in the beginning in 10.121.1. The golden germ is identified with the Lord of Progeny (prajāpati) in 10.121.10, who also arose from the waters in Taittirīya-āraṇyaka 1.23.1 and is there described as the first-born. Wind or air (vāta) is the first-born in Ṛg-veda 10.168, and is the germ (garbha) of the world. Desire came upon “that” in 10.129.4a, “that one germ” (ābhu) from 10.129.3cd, just like desire came upon the one Lord of Progeny (prajāpati) in Taittirīya-āraṇyaka 1.23.1-2, where Ṛg-veda 10.129.4 is repeated.
For the word kāma, “desire,” a few translators have used “love,” and a few have used “will.” It is easy to see how desire as the attraction between the two sexes can come to mean love, and it is not hard to see how desire as wish can be a meaning of will (e.g., “do as you wish,” or “do as you will”). These translations help to show the range of meanings that kāma might have, especially as a cosmic principle. We know from Hesiod’s Theogony that the comparable eros (“desire”) is also a cosmic principle in ancient Greek cosmogony. Like with tapas (10.129.3d), I have preferred to use the basic meaning (“desire”), rather than a derivative meaning, and let the interpretations come later.
Regarding the verb (samavartata, “became, occurred, arose”) and its auxiliary adhi, as noted by Macdonell in his Vedic Reader (1917, p. 209): “ádhi upon makes the verb transitive = come upon, take possession of.” That is, it then takes an object. In agreement with this, most translators have taken its object as tat, “that.” A few (e.g., Edgerton 1965; Brereton 1999) have taken tat here as an indeclinable rather than a pronoun, and have translated tat as “then.” The Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava Ṛg-veda commentary and the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentary also take tat as “then” (tadānīm). The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa and Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentaries do not take adhi as making samavartata transitive, but instead take it as ādhikyena, “in a high degree.” The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentaries gloss the sam of samavartata as samyak, “completely.” So the Sāyaṇa commentaries take this verb to mean that desire fully arose.
RV 10.129.4b: mánaso rétaḥ prathamáṃ yád á̄sīt, “which was the first seed of mind.” None of the words in verse 4 are mystery words, like some words in other verses of this hymn. Yet there are more possible ways to construe this verse than any of the other verses. The common interpretation of it as saying that desire was the first seed of mind is far less certain than the consensus of translations would lead the unsuspecting reader to believe. So one cannot say with confidence that Ṛg-veda 10.129 teaches that desire precedes mind in the cosmogonic process, and then proceed to make comparisons with other cosmogonies. Reliable conclusions cannot be built on unstable ground.
In this verse the referents for the pronouns are uncertain, if they are pronouns at all. Does the auxiliary word adhi make the verb take an object or merely intensify it? On this depends whether tat is taken as the pronoun “that” or the adverb “then,” and therefore whether or not it correlates with the following yat as the pronoun “which.” Does the word retas here mean seed as a cause or seed as a product? That is, is desire the cause of mind or the product of mind? Related to this is the question of whether the word manasaḥ is to be taken as the genitive “of the mind” or the ablative “from the mind.” Then, does manas here mean mind or thought? More crucially, does manas here refer to an unmanifested ultimate mind or a manifested conventional mind (both of which are fully attested in the Vedic writings)?
Most of the English (and German and French) translations understand this line to say that desire was the first seed of mind, while the Sanskrit commentaries agree that mind or thought preceded desire. In these translations the verb takes an object, “that” (tat), which is then correlated with the following “which” (yat). So they understand this line as: “Desire in the beginning came upon that [one], which [desire] was the first seed of mind.” That is, they take the “which” to refer to “desire” from the first part of the line. However, as a standard yat-tat pronoun correlative construction, the “which” (yat) goes with the “that” (tat) that desire came upon, not with desire. What is the “that” that desire came upon? According to most translators, the “that” here is “that one” that breathed without air from verse 2. Perhaps they did not want to say that “that one” was the first seed of mind, and therefore took the corresponding “which” to refer to “desire” instead. But the “that” that desire came upon may not be “that one” that breathed without air from verse 2.
For reasons given above, I understand the “that” that desire came upon to be the germ (ābhu) from verse 3. Then, taking this line as a standard yat-tat pronoun correlative construction, it would be understood as: “Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ], which [germ] was the first seed of mind.” That is, the “which” (yat) refers to “that” (tat) [germ] from the first part of the line. It is not unreasonable to say that the germ was the first seed of mind. What the germ (ābhu) would refer to as the first seed of mind is either the first product of an ultimate mind, or the first cause of the conventional mind about to be manifested, or both. In the second case, mind would be equivalent to mahat, the “great” principle of intelligence from which the entire cosmos evolves. This is much like in the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary on 10.129.3d where the germ as the unmanifest world comes into manifestation by means of mahat. In the first case, mind would be a synonym of or associated with the ultimate, like brahman or para-brahman or īśvara or parameśvara in the commentaries. As both, mind would be what is personified as Prajāpati in the commentaries: the first-born from the ultimate brahman, and the “Lord of Progeny” from which the cosmos is produced.
Regarding the ideological question of whether desire precedes mind or mind precedes desire, the available Sanskrit commentaries take for granted that mind or thought precedes desire. Leaving aside the Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava Ṛg-veda commentary, which is so brief that it gives us nothing to judge this by, we have four other commentaries on this verse. These four agree that desire arose in some mind or thought, whether this mind or thought is connected to (para)brahman through tamas, “darkness” (so the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary), whether it is of (parama)īśvara (so the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary), or whether it is of Prajāpati (so the Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra and Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentaries). Desire is the first thing that arises in mind or thought. So for them, mind or thought precedes desire. They explain the phrase, “the first seed of mind,” in relation to this taken for granted fact.
The word retas, usually translated here in this verse as “seed,” commonly means “semen.” It can also mean “rain,” which is how Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava takes it in the next verse. It is not the word “seed” as the seed of a plant, which word is bīja. However, the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses retas here as bīja. It is understood as the seed consisting of the karmic residues made by living beings in the previous period of manifestation that will bring about their manifestation in the upcoming period of manifestation. It is a cause in relation to the future period of manifestation, but an effect in relation to the previous period of manifestation. The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa and Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentaries and the Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentary all gloss retas here as kārya, an effect in contradistinction to a cause; it is a product, being a manifestation from the cause. It is understood as being the first product or result of mind or thought. It is the desire to create. So this verse quarter is understood as speaking of “the first seed (as a product) of mind” rather than “the first seed (as a cause) of mind.”
In the above it will be noticed that I did not give the whole phrase, “which was the first seed of mind.” This is because the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentaries do not take yat as the pronoun “which” here. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary takes yat as the indeclinable yataḥ, “from which, due to which, since, because,” further glossing it as yataḥ kāraṇāt, “from which cause, for what reason.” It correlates this with the preceding tat, again not taking this as the pronoun “that,” but rather as the indeclinable tataḥ, “from that, therefore,” further glossing it as tataḥ hetoḥ, “from that cause, for that reason.” So it takes this line to say: “Because a retas (“seed”) of such kind, being the first seed (bīja) of the future manifestation (prapañca), the karma consisting of the merit made by living beings in the past period of manifestation (kalpa), at the time of creation (sṛṣṭi) was (āsīt), i.e., came into being (abhavat), . . . therefore the desire to create was born in the mind of parameśvara (highest God), the giver of the fruits [of karma], the witness of all, the overseer of karma.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentary similarly takes yat as yadā, “when,” and the corresponding tat as tadā, “then,” saying: “When the first seed (retas), i.e., product (kārya), of mind was (āsīt), then, at the time of creation, from Prajāpati in the beginning, at first, a desire (kāma), the desire (abhilāṣa), ‘may I create all,’ arose fully, in a high degree, was completely arisen.”
As we see, these two commentaries did not take yat and tat in this line as pronouns in a yat-tat pronoun correlative construction, as did most translations. The Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava Ṛg-veda commentary also took tat as an adverb (tadānīm, “then”) rather than as a pronoun. He did not gloss yat. The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary did take yat and tat here as pronouns. In order to correlate them it said: which (yat) seed (retas), i.e., product (kāryam), that (tat) product (kāryam), having become desire (kāmo bhūtvā), arose. That is, it took the yat-tat pronoun correlative as all neuter words, and then used “having become” (bhūtvā) to bring in the masculine kāma. In full: “What was the first seed (retas), the initial product (kārya), of the mind connected with para-brahman, that product in the beginning, at the start of creation, having become desire, fully arose, in a high degree became manifest.” The Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentary did not gloss either yat or tat, so we do not know how he understood them. What is common to these commentaries that provide glosses is taking the text in such a way as to get the required gender agreement.
The pronoun yat (“which”) is neuter in gender, while the noun kāma (“desire”) is masculine in gender. So the “which” cannot stand for “desire,” grammatically speaking, because of the difference in gender. The translation of this verse quarter that we usually see, “which [desire] was the first seed of mind,” does not show how this gender disagreement was accounted for. This is a separate problem from the one spoken of above about the “which” (yat) going with the “that” (tat) that desire came upon (not with “desire”) in a yat-tat pronoun correlative construction. So it applies even if this line is not taken as a yat-tat pronoun correlative construction, but instead the tat is taken as the adverb “then.” I have seen only one comment on this. Macdonell in his 1917 Vedic Reader says (p. 209), “yad: referring to kāmas is attracted in gender to the predicate n. retas.” That is, according to Macdonell it is due to this attraction that yat (yad) agrees with the neuter word retas (“seed”) in the predicate rather than with the subject, desire, as would be expected.
As far as I can tell from the English translations, only Coomaraswamy (1933) attempted to account for this gender disagreement in his translation. He did so by taking the yat (“which,” but “that” in his translation) with the neuter retas (“seed”) rather than with masculine kāma (“desire,” translated by him as “will”). He translates: “In the beginning, Will (kāma) arose (samavartat) therein, the primal seed (retas) of Intellect (manas), that was the first.” Coomaraswamy here appears to have understood an implied “is” between kāma and retas, and then he took prathamaṃ yad āsīt, “that was the first,” as a separate phrase. Although it is not altogether clear from his punctuation, he seems to have ended up with the same meaning as is given by most of the other translators, that kāma is the primal seed of mind. But he did so without taking “which” (yat) as kāma (“desire”). Kashyap (2007) copied Coomaraswamy almost verbatim here, even including the typo samavartat for samavartata. But the punctuation was changed, and this changed the meaning. He has: “In the beginning, desire (kāma) arose (samavartat) therein. The primal seed (retas) of mind (manas), that was the first.”
While most of the translations make it clear that by “which” they intend “desire,” in some the referent for “which” is ambiguous, due to the nature of English. When we say: “Desire in the beginning came upon that, which was the first seed of mind,” the rules of English grammar say that the referent for “which” should be the immediately preceding “that.” But in real life, language does not always follow the rules. This sentence can easily be understood to mean that “desire” is the referent for “which,” and this can be what was intended by the writer. Thus, when we read “in It, which was” (Muir 1863, 1870), or “upon It, which was” (Whitney 1882), or “in That [One], which became” (Brown 1941), or “on that (viz. on the One), which was” (Gonda 1966), it looks like the “which” goes with the immediately preceding word. But when Gonda, for example, explained how he understood this sentence, we see that he in fact intended that “desire” is the referent for “which.” Gonda in his article, “The Creator and his Spirit (Manas and Prajāpati)” (Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens, vol. 27, 1983, attached), wrote on p. 9: “in the cosmogonical hymn 10, 129 [st. 4] kāma ‘desire’ is said to be the first retas ‘seminal fluid’ of manas.” Only Gough (1882) gives an indication that he intends the immediately preceding “it” as the referent for “which.” He does this by leaving out the “which,” translating: “Desire first rose in it, the primal germ.” But even this is uncertain.
Gonda in his 1983 article just cited goes on (p. 38) to translate this verse quarter as “which was the first semen of manas,” after which he speaks of “the manas in which the desire arose.” In a footnote here he rejects the translation, “kāma the origin of manas.” His point is that retas, which he here translates as “semen” rather than “seed,” is a product of manas, not the cause or origin of manas. Maurer (1975, pp. 226-227) made this point clearly, translating retas as “offshoot” rather than “seed,” and describing it as a “product” rather than a “source” or “producer.” He also takes manas as “thought” rather than “mind,” and translates: “desire, which was the first offshoot of (that) thought.” A few previous translators had given the same idea. Müller (1899) translates: “the seed springing from mind.” Macdonell in his 1922 translation gives: “It was the earliest seed, of thought the product” (but not in his 1900 and 1917 translations). Winternitz (1927, p. 99) paraphrases this as: “as the first product of his mind—‘the mind’s first fruit,’ as the poet says—came forth Kāma.” More recently, Brereton (1999) translates: “from thought there developed desire, which existed as the primal semen.” Notice that Müller and Brereton translate manasaḥ as an ablative, “from mind, from thought,” rather than as a genitive, “of mind, of thought.” All these translators are in agreement with the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary and the Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra and Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentaries, which take retas as a product (kārya), as we have seen above.
The paṇḍits who wrote the commentaries that go under the name Sāyaṇa were Advaita Vedāntins. As such, they were committed to an ultimate, brahman, that is described as satyaṃ jñānam anantaṃ brahma (this is actually quoted in the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary here on this verse), or sat cit ānanda, where brahman is jñānam, “knowledge,” or cit, “consciousness.” They are therefore committed to an ultimate consciousness, an ultimate mind, that would necessarily precede desire. The question is whether this is warranted in the Vedic texts as such (i.e., not including the upaniṣads, where manas and brahman are equated at Taittirīya-upaniṣad 3.4.1, Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 4.1.6, Chāndogya-upaniṣad 7.3.1, etc.). The answer is yes. The Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa passage (10.5.3.1) partially quoted above (under 10.129.1a) identifies what was neither non-existent nor existent in the beginning as manas (“mind”). It then quotes Ṛg-veda 10.129.1a, making this the earliest commentary we have on this hymn. Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 18.104.22.168 also speaks of manas in the beginning when there was nothing else. Gonda (1983, p. 16) gives references to other brāhmaṇa texts saying that there is nothing that precedes manas (Aitareya-brāhmaṇa 2.40.2 and Kauṣītaki-brāhmaṇa 27.5 or 27.9.18). In Martin Haug’s 1863 edition of the Aitareya-brāhmaṇa this passage is (pp. 52-53): manaso hi na kiṃcana pūrvam asti, which he translates as “nothing exists anterior to the mind.” So can we take manas here in Ṛg-veda 10.129.4 as ultimate mind?
There are also brāhmaṇa texts saying that mind is something created or emanated. Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 22.214.171.124 was noticed and translated by John Muir in his comments on his translation of this hymn (1870, p. 365): asato ’dhi mano ’sṛjyata | manaḥ prajāpatim asṛjata | prajāpatiḥ prajāḥ asṛjata, “From the nonexistent[,] mind (manas) was created. Mind created Prajāpati. Prajāpati created offspring.” This passage was also translated by Gonda in his 1983 article (pp. 25-26), who follows this with a similar passage from the Sāmavidhāna-brāhmaṇa (1.1.1). He translates the latter as: “In the beginning, bráhman (neuter) was here. Its semen became predominant; it became brahmán (masculine). He considered silently and mentally. His ‘mind’ became Prajāpati. That is why the (mantras) belonging to an oblation made to Prajāpati are pronounced mentally, for Prajāpati is manas.” Prajāpati is frequently equated with manas, “mind” (for references, see Gonda’s 1983 article on Manas and Prajāpati, pp. 23-25). Prajāpati is also usually understood to be the same as the masculine Brahmā, even though sometimes equated with the neuter brahman (see J. Gonda’s 1989 monograph, Prajāpati’s relations with Brahman, Bṛhaspati and Brahmā); and Prajāpati or Brahmā are normally considered to be the first-born. In other words, manas is the first-born, something created/emanated.
It is not necessarily contradictory for manas to be both ultimate mind and conventional or created mind. In the Vedic texts we find things like this, that are each true from their own perspective. Thus, Ṛg-veda 10.72.4 says Dakṣa was born from Aditi, and Aditi was born from Dakṣa; Ṛg-veda 10.90.5 says Virāj was born from Puruṣa, and Puruṣa was born from Virāj. Even though we speak of the conventional or created mind in manifestation, this does not mean that it is not ultimately the ultimate mind. Nonetheless, it is useful to make the distinction for normal purposes. While Prajāpati is sometimes equated with the ultimate brahman, he is usually and normally equated with the first-born Brahmā, the creator. In any given passage a text is usually speaking specifically of one or the other, at least primarily. A line from Ṛg-veda 1.164.18 speaks about the born mind in almost the same way as Ṛg-veda 10.129.6 speaks about the born cosmos: “Who here can say from where the divine mind (devam manas) has been born (prajātam)?” (10.129.6: “Who here can say? From where has [it] been born? From where [has come] this manifestation [of the cosmos]?”). This parallel with another famous hymn gives us reason to believe that 10.129.4 is speaking specifically about the born mind rather than the ultimate mind.
There are additional reasons why it is more likely that Ṛg-veda 10.129.4 is speaking specifically of the conventional or created mind than the ultimate mind. Where it speaks of manasaḥ retas, manasaḥ is most naturally understood as a genitive, the seed “of mind,” rather than an ablative, “from mind.” Regarding how we take retas, “seed” (or “semen”), whether as a product (kārya), or whether as seed (bīja) in the sense of a cause, the above-quoted Sāmavidhāna-brāhmaṇa passage may be relevant. This passage in Gonda’s 1983 translation speaks of the “semen” of brahman, which became Brahmā. After again translating this passage in his 1989 monograph, Prajāpati’s relations, etc., he comments that this passage is remarkable “in that the neutral concept Bráhman is credited with semen” (pp. 43-44). Checking the original Sanskrit (in the critical edition by B. R. Sharma, 1964), we find that what Gonda translated as “semen” is actually two words: “tejo raso . . .,” whether we take tejas and rasa separately or in a compound. The word tejas has many meanings, including light, luster, splendor, heat, fire (the element), and vital power. The word rasa also has many meanings, including sap (of trees), juice (of plants), fluid, taste, sentiment, and essence. Gonda apparently took these in a compound as something like “vital power fluid” = “semen,” no doubt with good reason. However, neither of the two commentaries on the Sāmavidhāna-brāhmaṇa, by Sāyaṇa and the slightly earlier one by Bharatasvāmin, take these words as semen.
The two words tejas and rasa also occur together in a cosmogonic passage from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad (1.2.2), on which we have additional commentaries. The relevant sentence is translated by Radhakrishnan (1953) as: “From him thus rested and heated (from the practice of austerity) his essence of brightness came forth (as) fire.” He translates tejas as “brightness” and rasa as “essence,” in the compound “essence of brightness,” citing the gloss from Rāmānuja’s commentary, tejas-sāra-bhūtaḥ. Gonda, too, in his 1959 book, Four Studies in the Language of the Vedas, had translated these two words in this passage as “essence of brightness” (p. 16). This translation takes them as a tatpuruṣa case-relation compound, putting the first member in the genitive case, “of tejas.” S. C. Vasu (1916) also takes them as such, “essence of energy,” giving Madhva’s commentary, sāmarthya sārabhūta. It is possible to take these as two separate words, as did Swāmī Mādhavānanda (1934, 5th ed. 1975), “essence, or lustre,” and Robert Ernest Hume (1921, 2nd ed. 1931), “his heat (tejas) and essence (rasa),” and Patrick Olivelle (1998), “his heat—his essence.” The oldest commentary we have on this upaniṣad is the one by Śaṅkara, who glosses rasa as sāra, “essence,” as does Rāmānuja and Madhva.
Śaṅkara takes these two words as a karmadhāraya compound, having them in apposition: teja eva rasas. They are nicely translated as such in the translation published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math (Mylapore, Madras, 1951, 3rd ed. 1968), “essence as lustre.” More fully: “In this (work of creation) Prajāpati was tired. From him, fatigued and afflicted, came forth his essence as lustre. This was fire.” Of course, rasa can mean “fluid” or “juice” besides “essence.” In an article on “Tapas” from The Brahmavādin (Madras, vol. 12, no. 11, Nov. 1907, p. 573), the unnamed author uses the poetic yet accurate translation, “the juice of Light,” saying: “From toil and Tapas came Tejorasa, the juice of Light.” If we take these words as a karmadhāraya compound following Śaṅkara rather than a tatpuruṣa case-relation compound, using “as” rather than “of,” we get “juice as light” for what came forth. What is semen for male creatures may be light for formless beings.
In fact, retas (“seed, semen”) is directly equated with light (jyotis) in the Vedic texts. Gonda in his article, “Background and Variants of the Hiraṇyagarbha Conception” (Studies in Indo-Asian Art and Culture, vol. 3, ed. Perala Ratnam, New Delhi, 1974, pp. 39-54, attached), writes (p. 43): “The ancients obviously were strongly inclined to believe that seed (retas) is a form or manifestation of light, . . . This identity is clearly stated at ŚB. [Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa] 126.96.36.199: ‘In saying, “Agni is light (jyotis), light is Agni, svāhā,” he encloses that seed, light, on both sides with the deity, viz. Agni’ (the text is discussing the agnihotra ceremonies) and 35 ‘Then, in the morning, with the words, “The light is Sūrya (the Sun), Sūrya is the light,” he places that seed, light, outside by means of the deity . . .’; . . .” He then gives additional references. So “juice as light,” or “semen as light,” is an equation that the texts directly make.
We are provided with yet another possible synonym for retas in Ṛg-veda 10.129.4 in a parallel passage quoted in the Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentary here, Manu-smṛti 1.8cd: apa eva sasarjādau tāsu vīryam apāsṛjat. The whole Manu-smṛti verse is translated by Gangā-nātha Jhā (1920) as: “Desiring to create the several kinds of created things, He, in the beginning, by mere willing, produced, out of his own body, Water; and in that he threw the seed.” The word for “seed” here is vīrya, another word having many meanings, including strength, might, virile power, heroism, luster, and semen. There is a variant reading in this verse. While the Manu-smṛti as commented on by Medhātithi has vīrya here, as commented on by Kullūka-Bhaṭṭa it has bīja here. As we recall, bīja is the basic word for “seed” like the seed of a plant. Naturally, the translators following this reading give “seed” here (A. C. Burnell, 1884; G. Bühler, 1886; M. N. Dutt, 1908). Jhā, quoted above, was the first person to edit and translate Medhātithi’s commentary, having vīrya, which he also translates as “seed.” Patrick Olivelle also accepts the reading vīrya in his 2005 critical edition and translation, and he translates this phrase as, “it was the waters that he first brought forth; and into them he poured forth his semen.” Medhātithi glosses vīrya as śukra, “semen,” while Kullūka-Bhaṭṭa glosses bīja here as śakti-rūpa, “in the form of power.” In the next verse, the Manu-smṛti tells us what that became, aṇḍam haimam, the “golden egg”; i.e., hiraṇya-garbha, the “golden germ,” and in that was born Brahmā, the creator.
We see from the parallel passages that “seed,” as retas or the parallel terms tejas rasa, vīrya, or bīja, comes from something, and is in that sense an effect or product, kārya, but more importantly becomes the cause of the cosmos about to be manifested. What exists at this point may be called Prajāpati, the “Lord of Progeny,” or manas, “mind,” or other synonyms in a somewhat fluid manner, depending on the particular account. Sometimes Prajāpati is equated with the germ (hiraṇya-garbha), as seen above, and sometimes Prajāpati is born from the germ (garbha). Thus Vājasaneyi-saṃhitā 23.63, as translated by Gonda (1974, p. 50): “The Self-existing One (svayambhūḥ), of excellent nature, the first, laid down within the mighty flood the embryo [garbha] which observes the proper time, from which Prajāpati was born.” Similar is Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa 188.8.131.52, where Prajāpati was born from a golden egg (aṇḍa). Then he created the cosmos. Earlier in this text (184.108.40.206), Prajāpati was equated with mind: prajāpatir vai manas. So it seems most likely that Ṛg-veda 10.129.4b speaks primarily of “the first seed of mind” as we would normally take that phrase: the cause of mind; and mind in turn results in the manifestation of the cosmos. But this seed or cause is unlikely to be desire.
If there is anything in the Vedic texts that is said again and again to desire, it is Prajāpati and its synonyms. Geldner in his 1951 German translation (footnote on verse 10.129.4a) gives an example of this in association with tapas, along with several references: prajāpatir akāmayata prajā sṛjeyeti sa tapo ’tapyata, which can be translated as, “Prajāpati desired, ‘may I create progeny.’ He generated tapas.” (Taittirīya-saṃhitā 220.127.116.11; also Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 18.104.22.168; 22.214.171.124; 126.96.36.199; Aitareya-brāhmaṇa 4.23.1; 5.32.1; Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa 188.8.131.52; 10.5.3.3; 184.108.40.206). While the texts are quite willing to attribute desire to the one ultimate brahman (e.g., both commentators on the Sāmavidhāna-brāhmaṇa passage quoted above say, brahmaṇaḥ sisṛkṣoḥ, “of brahman desiring to create”), they much more often say, “Prajāpati desired.” The fact that desire is almost always attributed to the “one” that breathed without air from verse 2 in the translations of 10.129.4 is likely due to two facts. First, as already discussed, the one ābhu (“germ”) is usually taken to be identical with the “one” ultimate. Second, the fact that Prajāpati and its synonyms are regularly also described as “one” (eka) is therefore not brought into the picture. When we take the one ābhu as the one hiraṇya-garbha or the one Prajāpati, we can construe this verse quarter naturally as a yat-tat pronoun correlative construction without gender disagreement: “Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ], which [germ] was the first seed of mind.”
In summary, most translators understand this line as: “Desire in the beginning came upon that [one], which [desire] was the first seed of mind.” A comparatively few understand desire to be the first seed of mind in the sense of a product rather than a cause. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary understands this line as: “Because the first seed [the seed (bīja) of the future manifestation, consisting of the karma made by living beings in the previous period of manifestation] in the beginning came into being, therefore the desire [to create] arose in the mind [of parameśvara].” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-āraṇyaka commentary understands this line as: “When the first seed [product (kārya)] of mind was, then [from Prajāpati] in the beginning a desire [to create] fully arose.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary understands this line as: “What was the first seed [product (kārya)] of the mind [connected with para-brahman], that [product] in the beginning, having become desire, fully arose.” The paṇḍits who wrote under the name Sāyaṇa agree that mind or thought precedes desire. When this line is taken as a yat-tat pronoun correlative construction, it may be understood as: “Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ], which [germ] was the first seed of mind.” The first seed of mind may be the first product of an ultimate mind, and more specifically the first cause of the conventional mind about to be manifested. The parallel with the poetically expressed “juice as light” (tejo-rasa) may be applicable to this seed.
RV 10.129.4c: sató bándhum ásati nír avindan, “found out [desire to be] the link of the existent in the non-existent.” The word “desire” (kāma) is here carried down from the first half of this verse. Most translators do not do this. If we do not carry down “desire,” then the first and second halves of this verse make independent and unrelated sentences. The second half of this verse then would say only that sages found the link between the existent and the non-existent. As Maurer astutely observed (p. 228), this is “hardly any discovery at all.” When we do carry down “desire,” thus taking the verse as a whole, it says what that link is. Sages found desire to be the link between the existent and the non-existent.
Walter Maurer (1975, pp. 220, 227-228) strongly advocated this interpretation, regarding it as “the key to the entire hymn” (p. 220). I have adopted it from him. Only some of the earlier translators took it this way, as he notes (pp. 228-229, fn. 31), adding that this is how the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary understands it, but not the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary. I can add that Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava’s Ṛg-veda commentary is too brief to even raise the question, but both Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra’s and Sāyaṇa’s commentaries on this verse as it is found repeated in Taittirīya-āraṇyaka 1.23.1-2 take desire to be the link between the existent and the non-existent.
RV 10.129.4d: hṛdí pratí̄ṣyā kaváyo manīṣá̄, “Sages, having searched in the heart with inspired thought.” The specific meaning of the word manīṣā is not easy to determine, and the word is not easy to translate into English. It has most often been translated as “wisdom” in this verse, and this is no doubt a reasonable approximation. In an attempt to get a little closer, I have adopted “inspired thought” from Jan Gonda’s study of this term in his 1963 book, The Vision of the Vedic Poets, pp. 51-56. An example of some of the evidence that he there gives for reaching this meaning is (p. 52): “That the manīṣā like intuition in general is compared to a flash of light appears from 10, 177 where it is described as dyotamānām and svaryam ‘bright (shining)’ and ‘of the nature of the light of heaven’.” He paraphrases its sense as (p. 55): “the faculty of having an immediate insight into reality without the help of discursive thought.” In Gonda’s 1966 translation of this hymn, he translates manīṣā with the phrase, “the inspired thoughts of their minds.” Similarly, Brereton (1999) translates it as “inspired thinking.”
Kashyap (2007) points out that manīṣā is part of a Vedic triplet of hṛdā, manasā, manīṣā, occuring in Ṛg-veda 1.61.2 and Kaṭha-upaniṣad 2.3.9. In the latter, where the triplet is given in the order, hṛdā, manīṣā, manasā, S. Radhakrishnan translates these three as: “by heart, by thought, by mind.” Patrick Olivelle (using the numbering 6.9 instead of 2.3.9) translates these as: “with the heart, with insight, with thought.” That is, Radhakrishnan translates manīṣā as “thought,” while Olivelle translates manīṣā as “insight,” and manas as “thought.” These are two of the most widely respected translations of the upaniṣads. This example is given to show the difficulty in translating a term such as manīṣā, while retaining any meaningful distinction between it and similar terms such as manas.
Gonda in his 1963 book also refers to this triplet, and translates Ṛg-veda 1.61.2. Here, we recall, the terms are given in the order, hṛdā, manasā, manīṣā. Gonda translates, p. 54: “they polish, for Indra, their dhiyaḥ (‘visions’) with their heart, their ‘mind’, their ‘inspired thought’.” Gonda then translates the verse here being discussed, Ṛg-veda 10.129cd: “seeking in their heart the sages found the inherence of being and non-being by their specific inspired thought.” He translated this in his 1966 translation of this hymn as: “The sages after having received (it) in their hearts with the inspired thoughts of their minds, found the bond of the reality of the ‘cosmos’ in (with) the undifferentiated ‘chaos’.”
By David Reigle on March 2, 2013 at 5:33 am
Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation”
Translation Notes (continued)
RV 10.129.2a: ná mṛtyúr āsīd amṛ́taṃ ná tárhi, “There was not death nor life (“non-death”) then.” The word amṛta commonly means “immortality,” and most translators have translated it as such; for example: “There was not death nor immortality then.” Coomaraswamy (1933), however, translates this verse quarter as: “Then was neither death (mṛtyu) nor life (amṛta).” He points out that (pp. 56-57), “Amṛta, in the second stanza, is not ‘immortality,’ but simply life, continued existence, as in Ṛg Veda, VII, 57, 6, and equivalent to dīrghamāyuḥ in X, 85, 19; the sense is ‘neither birth nor death as yet were.’” Gonda (1966) apparently agrees, translating this as: “There was not death (nor continuation of life) then.” I, too, agree, seeing amṛta here not as “immortality,” but merely as “non-death,” i.e., “life,” in a contrasting pair with mṛtyu, “death.”
The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary says this clearly, glossing amṛtam with jīvanam, “life” (in the sense of the condition of being alive). The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses amṛtam much less clearly with amaraṇam, literally “non-death,” which can signify either “life” or “immortality.” When choosing between two meanings that are equally possible grammatically, reason must be a criterion. I can see little reason why immortality would be spoken of here, especially when life and death form a more natural contrasting pair. Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava in his brief commentary does not gloss amṛtam.
RV 10.129.2b: ná rá̄tryā áhna āsīt praketáḥ, “There was no distinguishing sign of night [or] of day.” The word praketa, here translated as “distinguishing sign,” is a Vedic word. It is not used in classical Sanskrit, and its meaning is not certain. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses praketa as prajñāna, which can mean (from V. S. Apte’s dictionary): 1. knowledge, intelligence; 2. sign, mark; 3. discernment. Possibly H. W. Wallis intended this third meaning in his 1887 translation, “there was no discrimination of night and day.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary glosses praketa as cihna, “sign, mark,” probably indicating that this was also the meaning of prajñāna intended in the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary. The classical Sanskrit word saṃketa, differing from praketa only in the prefix sam rather than pra, also means “sign.” A majority of the recent English translations use “sign.” Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava glosses praketa as vibhāga, “distinction.” Although this portion of his commentary was not published until 1965, a majority of the earlier English translations (going all the way back to Colebrooke’s of 1805) use “distinction,” perhaps based on context. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty in her 1981 translation has combined the two meanings in “distinguishing sign,” which I have adopted. A few earlier translations used “light,” a different meaning deduced from the usage of praketa in some other locations (Ṛg-veda 1.113.1 and 1.94.5; see the footnote by Wallis, p. 59).
RV 10.129.2c: á̄nīd avātáṃ svadháyā tád ékaṃ, “That one breathed without air by [its] inherent power.” As pointed out by others, tad ekam, “that one,” can also be translated as “that alone.” The word avāta is often translated as “without wind”; but vāta, like vāyu, can also mean “air.” Air is more fitting in regard to breath.
The difficult word in this verse quarter is the feminine noun svadhā, translated by me as “inherent power.” Elsewhere in the Vedic texts svadhā often means a food or drink offering or oblation, a meaning that is obviously not appropriate here. The majority of the later translators take it here as some kind of power or force, a meaning derived from the context. The prefix sva, “self, own,” would indicate that it is an inherent or intrinsic power or force. The majority of the earlier translators take it here as some kind of inherent nature, something that is self-supported or is its own support or is supported by itself, and thus has also been translated in the instrumental case simply as “by itself.” This meaning is derived from the context as well as from the etymology of svadhā, sva-dhā. The verb-root dhā means “put or place,” “grant or confer or bestow,” “produce or make,” “bear or hold or support.” The last of these meanings is apparently the one that is relevant here. This is also how the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary understands svadhā, in its etymological analysis. After analyzing the sva as svasmin, “in or on itself,” it gives the passive verb made from the verb-root dhā, “dhīyate,” and glosses this with the passive verb made from the verb-root dhṛ, “dhriyate.” The verb-root dhṛ means, “hold, bear, support.” So the dhā of svadhā, by way of dhīyate, is explained as dhriyate, “is held, borne, supported.” In agreement with this etymological meaning, this phrase would say more fully, “That one breathed without air by [its] inherent or self-sustaining power.”
The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentaries gloss svadhā here as māyā, “illusion.” Advaita Vedānta regards māyā as a power (śakti) associated with the absolute brahman. However, Sāyaṇa is not saying that māyā is the power by means of which the “one” (brahman) breathed without air. Rather, he takes this line (as worded in his Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary) as, “That one along with [its] māyā breathed without air.” The instrumental case can mean “by” or “with”; i.e., “by means of,” or “along with.” Sāyaṇa uses saha and sahitam to show that he takes the instrumental svadhayā in the latter meaning. If svadhā is māyā, Sāyaṇa is obliged to take the instrumental here as “with” rather than “by.” This is because, according to the teachings of Advaita Vedānta, the ultimately unreal māyā is not inherent in the real brahman (in the sense of being inseparable from it). Something that is ultimately illusory cannot be the means by which the one brahman breathed without air. In accordance with these teachings, this verse can only be saying that brahman breathed (without air) along with or accompanied by its māyā.
Taking it in this way, however, stretches the natural reading of this line to such an extent that only followers of Advaita Vedānta have accepted it, and not all of these. Of more than thirty English translations, only two of the first ones accepted it, when there was little else to guide the translators besides Sāyaṇa’s commentary (these are: the first ever translation, made by Colebrooke in 1805; and the first one made by Muir in 1863, but not in his 1870 revised translation). Not even Wilson (died 1860) followed Sāyaṇa here, as he normally did. Nor did the 1987 translation done jointly by an Advaita Vedānta swami, Svami Satya Prakash Saraswati, and Satyakam Vidyalankar. There were, of course, other schools of Vedānta, which did not take māyā or its synonyms to be ultimately illusory. Then there would be nothing against identifying svadhā with māyā or its synonyms, when reading this verse in its natural manner.
Māyā is regarded in Advaita Vedānta as the power of projecting (vikṣepa) illusion. By way of this, it is regarded as being the cause (kāraṇa) of the phenomenal world. The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary here glosses: “with svadhā, i.e., along with māyā in the form of the cause of the entire world, based in itself.” “Itself” refers to “that one brahman”; “based” is āśrita. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary here (but not the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary) takes pains to explain that, when svadhā as māyā is said to be based in brahman, this does not mean that it is inherent in brahman in the sense of being inseparable from brahman. It is only superimposed on brahman, like the illusion of silver in certain seashells. It is for this reason that he must read this line as saying that brahman breathed without air with svadhā/māyā, not by svadhā/māyā.
In the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary on verse 5 (see below), svadhā is glossed as anna, “food,” thus bringing in the meaning of svadhā as a food offering or oblation. Advaita Vedānta also regards māyā as prakṛti, “matter, substance”; and food, as we know, often stands for matter. (S. Radhakrishnan in his highly accurate translation of the upaniṣads sometimes translates anna as matter rather than food.) Again, prakṛti is regarded in Advaita Vedānta as ultimately illusory, not as inseparably inherent in brahman. Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava in his brief commentary does not gloss svadhā.
Suryakanta in his 1981 Practical Vedic Dictionary gives “inclination” for svadhā, citing its occurrence in Ṛg-veda 10.129.5. He also gives two other passages illustrating this meaning: Ṛg-veda 1.113.13, ajarāmṛtā carati svadhābhiḥ, which he translates as “she the ageless and deathless moves according to her wont or inclination”; and Ṛg-veda 1.164.30, jīvo mṛtasya carati svadhābhiḥ, “the soul of the dead moves according to his inclination.” We notice in both of these cases that svadhā is in the instrumental plural, svadhābhiḥ (not singular, despite the singular translation, “inclination”), and that it is used with the verb carati, “moves.” If something moves according to its inclination, this could also be by its inherent power, or by its inherent nature.
As already said, besides as some kind of inherent power, the meaning of svadhā has also been taken as some kind of inherent nature. It is not very different to say, “That one breathed without air by [its] inherent nature,” as “by [its] inherent power.” This would make svadhā practically equivalent to svabhāva, “inherent nature,” something’s “own nature.” Ralph Griffith (1892) translates this phrase as, “breathed by its own nature.” Jan Gonda (1966) also translates this as: “breathed . . . by its own nature.” It is unlikely that Gonda would have copied Griffith, because Griffith’s metrical translation is not regarded by scholars as being accurate enough. So I hoped that Gonda would explain his choice of this translation term or idea in his full article in Dutch that his English translation of this hymn accompanies. Ingmar de Boer kindly translated the relevant portion of the Dutch article into English for me.
Gonda did not, it turns out, explain his translation term for svadhā. But he did give an alternative translation of svadhayā (in the instrumental) in a footnote, “van zelf” (not “vanzelf” written together as is usual, says Ingmar), or in English, “by itself” (or automatically, says Ingmar), and he referenced this to Alfred Hillebrandt’s 1913 Lieder des Ṛgveda, p. 133. There in his German translation of this hymn, Hillebrandt translates svadhayā as “von selbst,” or in English, “by itself,” and he does give references for his translation of this term in a footnote: Ṛg-veda 3.35.10, 4.45.6, 4.58.4 (“Indra created one, Surya one, one they made themselves”), 10.88.1. Here we have textual warrant for translating svadhayā as “by itself,” or “by its own nature,” or “by its inherent nature,” the same meaning as svabhāva.
Coomaraswamy (1933, p. 56) gives three synonyms for svadhā: māyā, śakti, svabhāva; apparently from the upaniṣads. We have already discussed these three, which pretty much summarize the proposed meanings for svadhā in this hymn. Coomaraswamy did not give a reference for the equivalence of svadhā to svabhāva, “inherent nature.” The equivalence of svadhā to śakti, “power,” is contextual here in Ṛg-veda 10.129.2. The equivalence of svadhā to māyā, “illusion,” given by Sāyaṇa, requires us to read this line in a somewhat unnatural manner and take svadhā as merely accompanying the “one.” In the natural reading of this line, svadhā is something by which the one breathed without air. For māyā or its synonyms to be this, it would have to be understood as something inseparable from brahman, an inherent power or an inherent nature. It could not be something that is ultimately unreal and is only superimposed on brahman, as māyā has been understood to be in Advaita Vedānta for the last 1,200 years. There were other schools of Vedānta prior to this, such as Bhedābheda, that did not make this ultimate distinction between the synonyms of māyā and brahman. For them, the equivalence of svadhā to māyā or its synonyms could work, following the natural reading of this line. The same inherent power or inherent nature by which the one breathed without breath could also bring about the manifested cosmos, as māyā is understood in Advaita Vedānta to do. Something like this must have been intended in this hymn, because in its verse 5, svadhā is described as being below (avastāt).
RV 10.129.2d: tásmād dhānyán ná paráḥ kíṃ caná̄sa, “Other than just that, there was not anything else.” This simple translation requires no comment other than to note that “just” translates the particle ha, and that paraḥ, “else,” could also mean “beyond.”
RV 10.129.3ab: táma āsīt támasā gūḷhám ágre ’praketáṃ saliláṃ sárvam ā idám, “Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning. All this was water without distinguishing sign.” It is a general rule in Vedic Sanskrit verse that a unit of meter is a unit of sense (a rule that Irach Taraporewala applied with good results to his translation of the related Avesta Gāthās). For this reason, most translators have taken the first verse quarter as a unit, and translated it like I have, “Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning.” Interestingly, the three extant commentaries take the first two words as a sentence, and then construe the rest of that verse quarter with the second verse quarter; in general like this: “There was darkness. All this [the cosmos], [like] water without distinguishing sign, was hidden by [this] darkness in the beginning.” Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava says that tamas, “darkness,” intends prakṛti, “matter, substance.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary gives three words for tamas: avidyā, “ignorance”; māyā, “illusion”; and śakti, “power.” It explains this as the material cause (upādāna) of the world, and glosses this as mūla-ajñāna, “root unknowing.” The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary says that another name for tamas is māyā, and it describes this as bhāva-rūpa-ajñāna, “unknowing in the form of an existing thing.” That is, darkness is equated with unknowing as a positive entity, a something, not unknowing as an absence of knowledge. It adds that this is the mūla-kāraṇa, the “root cause” (of the cosmos).
For apraketa, “without distinguishing sign,” see my comment on praketa in 10.129.2b. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary here on 10.129.3 takes apraketam as aprajñāyamānam, “not being known.”
RV 10.129.3cd: tucchyénābhv ápihitaṃ yád á̄sīt tápasas tán mahiná̄jāyatáikam, “That one germ which was covered by the void was born through the power of heat.” Because of the yat-tat pronoun correlative, something not used in English, the word order of these two verse quarters had to be rearranged in translation. It is, more literally, “Which germ was covered by the void, that one was born through the power of heat.” So it is only in the English translation that words from one verse quarter were put in the other verse quarter. These units of meter remain units of sense in the original. This half verse includes three words whose meaning is not precisely known (tucchya, ābhu, mahiman), and a fourth whose applicable meaning here is debated (tapas).
The word tuccha means “empty,” like the synonymous but more widely used word śūnya. The word tucchya used here, with the added “y,” is the same as tuccha. As a noun, which we have here, it would mean a void, something that is empty. This is how I have translated it (in the instrumental case), “by the void.” But we do not know exactly what it signifies as a technical term. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses it as bhāva-rūpa-ajñānam, “unknowing in the form of an existing thing.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary glosses it as mūla-ajñāna, “root unknowing.” So Sāyaṇa glosses tucchya like he glossed tamas, “darkness,” in the first part of this verse. Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava glosses tucchyena rather differently, as mṛtyunā, “by death,” and as udakena, “by water.” His commentary is very brief, and he assumes that his readers are already familiar with the Vedic literature. For “death” here, they would probably recall Bṛhad-āraṇyaka-upaniṣad 1.2.1, which begins: “There was nothing whatsoever here in the beginning. By death indeed was this covered” (translated by S. Radhakrishnan). For “water” here, the previous line of this verse had just said, “All this was water.” So the commentators say that tucchya, “the void,” is “unknowing,” i.e., “darkness,” or else “death,” or “water.”
The noun ābhu, taken by me and some others in the general sense of a “germ” or “potential,” more literally something that “comes into existence,” is one of the least understood words in the hymn. It is etymologically simple, being derived from the prefix ā and the verb-root bhū, “be.” The verb in the past tense made from this prefix and root, ābabhūva, “has come into being,” occurs in verses 6 and 7. But the neuter noun ābhu is practically unknown elsewhere in Sanskrit texts, so we do not know what it may mean as a technical term. It is not found in the ancient Nirukta by Yaska. From its etymological meaning, “that which comes into being, that which becomes,” Maurer said (p. 225) he “somewhat freely translated” it as “the germ (of all things).” I have adopted “germ” from him. “Germ” had also been used earlier in the anonymous translation of 1859 and Max Müller’s comments thereon, and in his own translation of 1899. Some other translators have used similar translations: “generative principle” (Edgerton, 1965), “the virtual” (Gonda, 1966), “the pregnant point” (Le Mee, 1975), “primordial potency” (Panikkar, 1977, only in his notes), “life force” (O’Flaherty, 1981), “the thing coming into being” (Brereton, 1999).
Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava glosses ābhu as maho brahma, “great brahman.” He does not elaborate. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses ābhu as ā samantād bhavati, “[it] becomes from all sides.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary glosses ābhu as ā samantād bhavaty utpadyata ity ābhu jjagat, “ābhu [is what] becomes, arises, from all sides, i.e., the world.” A few lines later Sāyaṇa speaks of this kind of world as avyakta, “unmanifest,” distinguishing this from the abhivyakta-jagat, the “manifest world.” So Sāyaṇa, too, understands ābhu as kind of a “germ” or “potential” world. There is a direct parallel to this verse in Taittirīya-āraṇyaka 1.23.1-2, where Prajāpati, “Lord of Progeny,” is found in place of ābhu. On that text we have, besides another Sāyaṇa commentary, also a pre-Sāyaṇa commentary by Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara-Miśra. The latter there glosses Prajāpati as hiraṇya-garbha, the “golden germ.” See below under 10.129.4a.
In the word apihita, “covered,” we see the same archaic prefix “api” that is also seen in the word apyaya, found in the compound prabhavāpyaya from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. (see the post, “The One Form of Existence”: prabhavāpyaya in the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā).
The basic meaning of the word tapas is “heat.” Derived from this is the common meaning “austerity, penance,” related to the heat or intensity of such practices undertaken by yogis, etc. This can be applied not only physically but also mentally. Thus, there can be a mental tapas related to intense meditation. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary quotes a passage from the Muṇḍaka-upaniṣad (1.1.9) speaking of tapas consisting of knowledge/wisdom, jñāna-mayam. Sāyaṇa here glosses: “of tapas in the form of reflection on [what is] about to be emanated.” While this meaning may well apply here, as Sāyaṇa says it does, I think it is better to give its basic meaning rather than its derivative meaning. This was proven on a large scale in the literally accurate Tibetan translations of the entire canon of Sanskrit Buddhist texts. The literal translations allowed for various interpretations to be made later. They did not pre-judge the issue and thereby limit it from the beginning to only one interpretation. So I have translated tapas as “heat.”
Tapas is not glossed by Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava, nor in the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary, where the variant reading tamas is found in the Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa text instead of tapas. John Muir in his 1870 translation gives a long footnote (fn. 541, pp. 361-362) reviewing the evidence for taking tapas as “rigorous and intense abstraction.” This includes Ṛg-veda 10.167.1, which “says that Indra gained heaven by tapas, where the word can only mean rigorous abstraction.” A little later (p. 365) Muir gives a passage on cosmogony from Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 220.127.116.11, where through tapas is produced smoke, fire, light, flame, rays, blazes, etc., one after the other. He there notes: “It may perhaps be considered that the manner in which the word tapas is used in this passage is favourable to the idea that in R.V. x. 129, 3, it signifies heat rather than rigorous abstraction.” Chauncey Blair in his 1961 book, Heat in the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda, cites Ṛg-veda 10.129.3 under the section, “Tapas as a Creative Power” (pp. 67-68). He introduces it with: “In the two following verses, tapas has become not only a completely abstract entity, but also a great creative, primeval power.” The second verse is Ṛg-veda 10.190.1, which he translates as: “Both Universal Order and Truth were produced from incandescent heat. From that (heat) night was born. And from that (heat) the billowing ocean (was born).”
The word mahinā, or mahimnā as Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava has it in his brief commentary, is regarded as the instrumental singular of mahiman, or of mahin. These are, in any case, synonyms. Mahiman commonly means “greatness,” but also “might, power,” as the context seems to require here. I have translated it (in the instrumental case) as, “through the power” (of heat). The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses mahinā as māhātmyena, simply “by greatness.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary, however, glosses mahinā quite differently. It takes mahiman (or mahin) as mahat, the “great” principle of the Sāṃkhya system. Mahat is another name for buddhi, the principle of intelligence from which the entire cosmos evolves. This quite different interpretation is due in part to the fact that this commentary accepts and uses some Sāṃkhya ideas, and due in part to the fact that the Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa reading of this verse has tamasas instead of tapasas. So rather than saying, “that one [germ or potential world] was born through the power of heat,” it says, “that one [germ or potential world] was born from darkness by way of mahat (the “great” principle).” It glosses: “by way of mahiman/mahin as mahat in the form of the manifest world.” It had spoken of the principle of mahat (mahat-tattva) earlier here, in its commentary on verse 1. The word mahiman occurs in the plural in verse 5, where the meaning “powers” is more fitting than “greatnesses.”
The “one” (ekam) that was born (ajāyata) is taken by almost all the translators to be “that one” (tad ekam) that breathed without air from verse 2. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentaries do not take it as this, and neither do I. The verse clearly says that the ābhu (“germ”) is what was born, however we understand that term. How the commentaries understand the ābhu has been given above in the second paragraph about ābhu. There is a distinction to be made between “that one germ” and “that one” itself that breathed without air. This hymn says in verse 2d that other than just that one, there was not anything else. If just that “one” is really and truly only “one,” then it cannot be born except metaphorically. The upaniṣads and brāhmaṇas are quite willing to speak metaphorically, and even have the “one” thinking and creating. For example, Aitareya Upaniṣad 1.1.1: “The self, verily, was (all) this, one only, in the beginning. Nothing else whatsoever winked. He thought, ‘let me now create the worlds.’” (translated by S. Radhakrishnan). Ṛg-veda 10.129, however, does not appear to do so, preserving at least a verbal distinction between “that one” itself and the “one germ” (ābhu). Unless and until there is clear evidence that the ābhu is completely identical with “that one” that breathed without air, I think we must keep this distinction.
By David Reigle on February 28, 2013 at 11:41 pm
Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation”
There are, I think, at least six important points in Ṛg-veda 10.129 on which there is disagreement among translators. Despite collecting more than thirty English translations of this hymn, I was unable to find any one translation that understood all six of these the way I understand them. This at last caused me to undertake a new translation, in order to have what I regard as an adequate basis for comparison with the Book of Dzyan. Before giving my translation, I here list these six important points and how I have understood them. The first two of these differ from almost all the translations known to me (but not from the two Sanskrit commentaries of Sāyaṇa), the next two differ from most of the previous translations, and the last two differ from more or less than half of them. There are, of course, differences on a number of other points as well (e.g., the meaning of rajas in 1b), sometimes also significant (e.g., the meaning of tapas in 3d). How I understood them may be seen in the translation notes. The six important points of difference are:
(1) In the second half of verse 3, the “one” (ekam) that was born is the germ (ābhu) of verse 3, not “that one” (tad ekam) that breathed without air of verse 2. The word that I and some others have taken as a germ (a very rare word of uncertain meaning), also described as “one,” is here understood to be distinct from “that one” itself. This makes a subtle but philosophically quite significant distinction. Following the natural grammatical construal of the standard yat-tat pronoun correlative found in this line, this verse says only that the germ is born, and applies the adjective “one” to it. Unless the germ is taken to be completely identical with “that one” that breathed without air of the previous verse, this verse does not say that “that one” itself is born.
(2) In the first half of verse 4, the “that” (tat) that desire came upon is the germ of the previous line, not the “that one” (tad ekam) that breathed without air of verse 2. This is the natural grammatical construal. Again, unless the germ is taken to be completely identical with “that one” that breathed without air of verse 2, this verse does not say that desire arose in “that one” itself.
(3) In the first quarter of verse 1, an implied “it” is supplied, saying, “[It] was not non-existent, nor was [it] existent then,” rather than the equally possible, “There was neither non-existence nor existence then.” Supplying “it” is based on parallel passages in the Vedic texts that specifically say “it” in this context. When this verse is translated as saying that there was neither non-existence nor existence then, it is sometimes understood to mean that there was absolutely nothing then, with the result that the cosmos arises from nothing rather than from something.
(4) In the second half of verse 4, the “desire” (kāma) from the first half is carried down. Rather than saying just that the sages found the link between the existent and the non-existent (“hardly any discovery at all”—Maurer, p. 228), the verse says what the sages found that link to be, when its two halves are taken together. Desire is the link between the existent and the non-existent. This is how the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary understands it, as does Walter Maurer, who regards it as “the key to the entire hymn” (p. 220 in his article linked in the previous post on this topic).
(5) In the third quarter of verse 1, the verb āvarīvar is taken as derived from the root vṛt, “exist, turn, move,” rather than from the root vṛ, “cover.” The verse therefore asks “what moved?” rather than “what covered?” This apparently describes the breathing without air of “that one” in verse 2. In taking the verb this way, I follow many of the later translators, based on the meaning found in parallel passages in the Vedic texts, rather than most of the earlier translators, based on the gloss given by Sāyaṇa (“covered”). Further, this being an “intensive” verb, I show the intensive sense with the word “incessantly” in my translation of it as “moved incessantly.”
(6) In the second quarter of verse 7, the unstated subject of the verb dadhe (“produced, made, established, upheld”) is taken to be “it” (“this creation or manifestation”) rather than “he” (the “overseer”). This applies whether the perfect middle verb dadhe is taken in a middle sense, “[it] made [itself],” or in a passive sense, “[it] was made.” When taken as “[he] made [it],” the “he,” the “overseer” from the next line, is usually understood to be a personal being, a creator, “God” (īśvara), as the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses “overseer” (adhyakṣa). However, there is no indication in the previous verses of anything but an evolutionary process of creation or manifestation, nothing that would require the involvement or direction of a personal being as creator. Only about a third of the English translations take “he” as the subject; mine is among the majority that do not.
Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation”:
ná̄sad āsīn nó sád āsīt tadá̄nīṃ ná̄sīd rájo nó výomā paró yát
kím á̄varīvaḥ kúha kásya śármann ámbhaḥ kím āsīd gáhanaṃ gabhīrám || 1 ||
1. [It] was not non-existent, nor was [it] existent then. There was no world, nor sky, [nor] what is beyond. What moved incessantly? Where? In the abode of what? Was [it] water, dense [and] deep?
ná mṛtyúr āsīd amṛ́taṃ ná tárhi ná rá̄tryā áhna āsīt praketáḥ
á̄nīd avātáṃ svadháyā tád ékaṃ tásmād dhānyán ná paráḥ kíṃ caná̄sa || 2 ||
2. There was not death nor life (“non-death”) then. There was no distinguishing sign of night [or] of day. That one breathed without air by [its] inherent power. Other than just that, there was not anything else.
táma āsīt támasā gūḷhám ágre ’praketáṃ saliláṃ sárvam ā idám
tucchyénābhv ápihitaṃ yád á̄sīt tápasas tán mahiná̄jāyatáikam || 3 ||
3. Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning. All this was water without distinguishing sign. That one germ which was covered by the void was born through the power of heat.
ká̄mas tád ágre sám avartatá̄dhi mánaso rétaḥ prathamáṃ yád á̄sīt
sató bándhum ásati nír avindan hṛdí pratí̄ṣyā kaváyo manīṣá̄ || 4 ||
4. Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ], which was the first seed of mind. Sages, having searched in the heart with inspired thought, found out [desire to be] the link of the existent in the non-existent.
tiraścí̄no vítato raśmír eṣām adháḥ svid āsí̄3d upári svid āsī3t
retodhá̄ āsan mahimá̄na āsan svadhá̄ avástāt práyatiḥ parástāt || 5 ||
5. Their cord was extended across. Was there a below? Was there an above? There were seed-placers, there were powers; inherent power below, impulse above.
kó addhá̄ veda ká ihá prá vocat kúta á̄jātā kúta iyáṃ vísṛṣṭiḥ
arvá̄g devá̄ asyá visárjanená̄thā kó veda yáta ābabhú̄va || 6 ||
6. Who really knows? Who here can say? From where has [it] been born? From where [has come] this manifestation? The gods are later than the manifestation of this [cosmos]. Then who knows from what [it] has come into being?
iyáṃ vísṛṣṭir yáta ābabhú̄va yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná
yó asyá̄dhyakṣaḥ paramé výoman só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda || 7 ||
7. From what this manifestation has come into being, whether [it] was made or whether not, its overseer who is in the highest heaven, he surely knows; or else [he] knows not.
“. . . a mere translation of the Veda, however accurate, intelligible, poetical, and even beautiful, is of absolutely no value for the advancement of Vedic scholarship, unless it is followed by pièces justificatives, that is, unless the translator gives his reasons why he has translated every word about which there can be any doubt, in his own way, and not in any other.” (F. Max Müller, Vedic Hymns, Part I, p. x, Sacred Books of the East, vol. 32, 1891.)
RV 10.129.1a: ná̄sad āsīn nó sád āsīt tadá̄nīṃ, “[It] was not non-existent, nor was [it] existent then.” Most translators take this line as the equally possible, “There was neither non-existence nor existence then.” I understand this line with an implied subject, “it,” in agreement with Walter Maurer (1975, p. 221), though he takes its referent as “all this (world)” (sarvam idam) from verse 3, while I take its referent as “that one” (tad ekam) from verse 2. To me, the convincing evidence for understanding an implied subject here (“it, this, that”) comes from what are by far the oldest extant re-statements of this line. These are found in the brāhmaṇas. There, the word idam, “this, it,” is explicitly stated. Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa 10.5.3.1 says: neva vā idam agre ’sad āsīn neva sad āsīt, “In the beginning this was certainly not non-existent, [it] was certainly not existent.” (In translating this, I follow Joel Brereton’s convincing explanation of neva, na iva, as a strong negation in his article, “The Particle iva in Vedic Prose,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 102, 1982, pp. 443-450, especially p. 448, paragraph 4.1.2.) In the next sentence the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa quotes the same line that we are discussing, Ṛg-veda 10.129.1a. Similarly, Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 18.104.22.168 says: idaṃ vā agre naiva kiṃcanāsīt | na dyaur āsīt | na pṛthivī | nāntarikṣam |, “This, indeed, in the beginning, was not even anything; not the heavens; not the earth; not the atmosphere.” We see here also a re-statement of our next line, Ṛg-veda 10.129.1b: “There was no world, nor sky, [nor] what is beyond.”
Some of the translators who take the line under discussion as, “There was neither non-existence nor existence then,” understand it to say that there was nothing then. Thus, creation would be creation out of nothing. But this is more an Abrahamic than an Indian idea. It is not that there was nothing then, but rather that what there was cannot be called either existent or non-existent, being or non-being; it is beyond dualistic conception. This is a basic idea in Indian thought. This idea is basic to what is often regarded as the pinnacle of Hindu Vedānta thought, the Advaita or “non-dual” tradition; and this idea is basic to what is often regarded as the pinnacle of Mahāyāna Buddhist thought, the Madhyamaka or “middle way” tradition. The Madhyamaka view is defined in an often-quoted verse as follows:
na san nāsan na sad-asan na cāpy anubhayātmakam |
catuṣ-koṭi-vinirmuktaṃ tattvaṃ mādhyamikā viduḥ ||
“The Mādhyamikas know reality free from the four positions of the tetralemma: neither is it existent, nor non-existent, nor both existent and non-existent, nor is it neither.”
(found in the Jñāna-sāra-samuccaya, etc.; here translated by David Seyfort Ruegg, Three Studies in the History of Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka Philosophy, Wien, 2000, p. 143).
RV 10.129.1b: ná̄sīd rájo nó výomā paró yát, “There was no world, nor sky, [nor] what is beyond.” Most translators take the word rajas here to mean “atmosphere” or “sky” or “air” or “midspace” rather than “world” as I have taken it, and see only two things here rather than three. Thus, for example, Arthur Macdonell in his very helpful Vedic Reader for Students (which most of us in the West learned with) translates this line as: “there was not the air nor the heaven which is beyond.” Of course, rajas does mean “atmosphere” in probably a majority of Vedic passages. But it also means “world,” as in Ṛg-veda 1.164.6 for example, where six worlds are spoken of; and it was glossed as loka in the plural (lokāḥ), “worlds,” in the very early Nirukta by Yaska (4.19). It does not necessary mean our world, but can refer to any globe in a series of worlds, usually higher worlds. These are often given as fourteen in number in Hindu texts. To us, these higher worlds would be the same as higher heavens or heaven worlds. They may be placed by us in what we call the atmosphere or sky. Both of the commentators, Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava and Sāyaṇa (in his Ṛg-veda commentary), gloss rajas here as loka, “world” (the Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary takes rajas as the guṇa rajas). They also see three things here rather than two. As we saw in the previous note, these three are spelled out in the old Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa at 22.214.171.124: “not the heavens; not the earth; not the atmosphere.” This gives us a perfectly logical and fitting interpretation as the world, the sky, and what is beyond.
There are important references in The Secret Doctrine that include the term rajas. The first is vol. 2, p. 385 fn., where the plural form rajāṃsi, “worlds,” is used. The second is vol. 2, pp. 621-622, where both the singular form, rajaḥ (mistakenly changed to rāja in the 1978 ed.), and the plural form, rajāṃsi, are used in an extract from the secret commentaries.
RV 10.129.1c: kím á̄varīvaḥ kúha kásya śármann, “What moved incessantly? Where? In the abode of what?” The verb āvarīvar (ā avarīvar), an intensive imperfect third person singular active, may be derived from the root vṛ, “cover,” or possibly from the root vṛt, “exist, turn, move.” In the former derivation, this verse quarter would begin, “What covered [all]?” I have taken it in the latter derivation, “moved.” Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava takes it as “covered,” glossing it as ācchādayām āsa. Sāyaṇa also takes it as derived from vṛ, “cover,” as has long been known. The majority of translators followed him in doing this, especially the earlier ones. More recently, most of the translators who have critically studied the Vedic Sanskrit of this hymn (in contradistinction to the translators whose intent was more to improve the language of the previous translations) have taken avarīvar as derived from the root vṛt, “exist, turn, move.”
The method of trying to determine the meaning of Vedic words by comparing their usage in all their occurrences in the Vedic texts was pioneered by Rudolph Roth, and he contributed the results to the massive seven-volume Sanskrit-Wörterbuch (1855-1875, in German). There (vol. 6, 1871, page column 757, lines 5-6) he derived āvarīvar in Ṛg-veda 10.129.1 from vart (vṛt), specifically rejecting the commentator’s (Sāyaṇa’s) derivation of it from var (vṛ). He translated āvarīvar into German as, “regte sich,” or in English, “stirred.” Hermann Grassmann followed Roth in deriving avarīvar from the root vṛt in his still widely used Wörterbuch zum Rig-Veda (1873, page column 1333; hymn 10.129 is there numbered 955). Grassmann in his 1876-1877 German translation of the Rig-Veda (vol. 2, p. 406) translated this phrase as, “Was regte sich?,” or in English, “What stirred?” Among English translations, “stirred” was used by Edward J. Thomas (1923), Franklin Edgerton (1965), Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty (1981), and Joel Brereton (1999). Karl Geldner and Adolf Kaegi in their joint 1875 German translation of this hymn (p. 165) translated this phrase as, “Bewegt’ sich was?,” taking āvarīvar as “moved” (likewise derived from vṛt). Geldner used the derivation from vṛ in his 1908 German translation of this hymn (p. 14) that included the commentary by Sāyaṇa (who derived avarīvar from vṛ). Geldner ultimately used the derivation of avarīvar from vṛt in his posthumously published 1951 German translation of the Rig-Veda (vol. 3, p. 359), “Was strich hin und her?,” adding the phrase “back and forth” to the general idea of “moved.” The first English translation to depart from the meaning “covered” for āvarīvar was Macdonell’s 1900 translation, which used “motion” (“What motion was there?”). However, he returned to the derivation from vṛ in his translations of 1917 (“What did it contain?”) and 1922 (“What was concealed?”). Closely related to “move” is the meaning of vṛt as “exist,” taken by Walter Maurer in his 1975 translation (“What existed?”).
Taking avarīvar as derived from the root vṛt, “exist, turn, move,” is done on the basis of the meaning as found in parallel passages. In Ṛg-veda 10.51.6 the term ā avarīvur is used in connection with a chariot. Like avarīvar, there is no “t” in avarīvur, and here the meaning is evidently related to motion rather than covering (vṛt rather than vṛ). Hermann Oldenberg in his Ṛgveda: Textkritische und exegetische Noten has succinctly stated the case for vṛt (vol. 2, 1912, pp. 346-347, in German). Geldner has done so even more briefly in a note to his German translation (vol. 3, 1951, pp. 359-360). He cites parallels where cognate forms describe the alternating motion of wind and of breath. To me, the convincing evidence is that the next verse, 10.129.2c, speaks of the breath: “That one breathed without air.” So we would expect the verb āvarīvar here in 10.129.1c to be describing the alternating motion of the breath, its coming and going. In a parallel passage at Ṛg-veda 1.164.30-31, after speaking of the breath in the prior verse, the verb ā varīvarti (clearly from vṛt) is used in the next verse to describe “coming hither and going afar” (Vasudeva S. Agrawala translation, Vision in Long Darkness, 1963, p. 112). I have used “moved” rather than the more poetic “stirred,” because “stirred” describes an awaking from sleep, while the hymn apparently describes the regular movement of the breath during sleep.
In my translation of āvarīvar as “moved incessantly,” the “incessantly” is an attempt to render the sense of “repeated” in the intensive verb form. The so-called intensive is a verb that shows either repeated or intensified action. Thus, repeated action is shown by Jan Gonda’s translation (1966), “moved intermittently,” by Hans Henrich Hock’s translation (2007), “kept on moving,” and by Geldner’s German translation (1951), “hin und her” (“back and forth”), while intensified action is shown by Paul-Emile Dumont’s translation (1969), “was violently moving,” and by Louis Renou’s French translation (1956), “mouvait puissamment” (“moved powerfully”). The other translations mentioned above, “stirred,” etc., do not reflect the intensive sense. Since the verb āvarīvar has been associated with alternating motion, the intensive sense of repeated could perhaps just as well be rendered “rhythmically” as “incessantly.” In regard to the coming and going of the breath, “moved rhythmically” would certainly be applicable.
The phrase, kasya śarman, translated by me as, “In the abode of what?,” is most often translated as, “In whose protection?” (The interrogative pronoun kasya can equally mean “of what” or “of who, whose.”) While the word śarman means “protection” in Ṛg-veda verses such as 6.75.11, I could never see the relevance of such a meaning in this verse, asking such a question here. It always seemed incongruous to me to ask “In whose protection?,” when the entire cosmos was out of existence, or in a state of dissolution. Such a question would assume a “who” outside of the cosmos, who had not dissolved with it, and who was there to protect it. One must also wonder what there was then that it would need protection against, when the entire cosmos was dissolved. Therefore I have accepted the meaning of śarman as found in the ancient Vedic word-list known as the Nighaṇṭu, where (3.4) it is given in a group of twenty-two words for gṛha, “house,” and have translated it as “abode.”
Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava, who often follows the Nighaṇṭu, glosses śarman here as gṛhe, “in the house.” The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentaries give us another meaning of śarman, taking it as sukha, “happiness,” which is explained in relation to bhoga, “enjoyment.” The meaning “house” can be seen behind Ananda K. Coomaraswamy’s 1933 translation of śarman here as “resting-place.” I think this translation of śarman is a good take on “house,” and was going to adopt it; but then the question, “In the resting-place of what?” would be answered with, “The formerly manifested cosmos.” I do not think that this obvious fact is what is being asked about here. I understand the question to be asking about the ultimate reality that is now asleep during pralaya when the cosmos is not in manifestation. So I have chosen “abode” for śarman, and translated this phrase as: “In the abode of what?”
Like the Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava gloss of śarman in the locative case, “in the house,” so the Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary has śarman in the locative case, śarmaṇi, “in the enjoyment/happiness.” The many translators who translate this phrase as “In whose protection?” similarly understand śarman as a locative here. This is because, for words such as śarman ending in “-an,” locatives without the final “i” are actually more common in the Ṛg-veda than those that have it. This fact was ascertained by Charles R. Lanman in his comprehensive study, “A Statistical Account of Noun-Inflection in the Veda,” presented to the American Oriental Society in 1877 (published in Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 10, 1872-1880, pp. 325-601). Of 330 instances, 127 have the final “i,” while 203 have dropped it (see pp. 535-536). The word śarman has it 11 times, and drops it 17 times. Lanman writes: “I examined the passages in which the above 330 forms occur, and found that the choice between the two forms was often decided simply by the metre.” The fact about the dropped locative ending was duly reported by A. A. Macdonell in his Vedic Grammar, p. 203, paragraph 325, and in his Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 67, para. 90.
RV 10.129.1d: ámbhaḥ kím āsīd gáhanaṃ gabhīrám, “Was [it] water, dense [and] deep?” The interrogative kim can be taken in more than one way, so that this could be asking: “Was there water?” (as most translators take it), or even “What was water?,” besides “Was [it] water?” The two words gahana and gabhīra both mean “deep, thick.” They are so closely related in meaning that, in order to make good English, they have often been given in a phrase (or paraphrase) here, such as “fathomless abyss.” Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava does not gloss them, but the two different commentaries that go under Sāyaṇa’s name gloss them consistently. The Sāyaṇa Ṛg-veda commentary glosses gahanam as duṣpraveśam, “hard to penetrate.” The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary (126.96.36.199) glosses gahanam as praveṣṭum aśakyam, “unable to penetrate.” Seeing no reason not to accept these glosses, I have therefore translated gahana as “dense.” Sāyaṇa in both his Ṛg-veda and Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentaries glosses gabhīram with the word agādham, “not shallow, deep, bottomless.” So I have translated gabhīram as “deep.”
The Sāyaṇa Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa commentary says that this water, dense and deep, is not the water known to us. It is not the water that remains during an intermediate pralaya or period of dissolution, when the earth remains in status quo and only its life-forms disappear. In the great pralaya, the earth itself disappears, along with everything on it including water. The water that the verse asks about is something different.
(Translation Notes to be continued)
By David Reigle on January 27, 2013 at 12:08 am
Part 1: Introduction
Facing the opening page of the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan given in The Secret Doctrine is a quotation of most of Ṛg-veda 10.129, known as the “Hymn of Creation.” There are obvious parallels between the two texts. The first verse of the Ṛg-veda hymn says, in the early translation there quoted, “Nor Aught nor Nought existed.” The first stanza of the Book of Dzyan speaks of “that which is and yet is not. Naught was.” The second verse of the Ṛg-veda hymn says, “The only One breathed breathless by itself.” The second stanza of the Book of Dzyan says that there was “naught save ceaseless eternal breath, which knows itself not.” The third verse of the Ṛg-veda hymn says, “Darkness there was, and all at first was veiled in gloom profound.” The first stanza of the Book of Dzyan had said that “Darkness alone filled the boundless all.”
The quoted Ṛg-veda hymn was not labeled as such in the 1888 first edition of The Secret Doctrine, nor was any reference given; so readers did not know that they were reading one of the most famous hymns from the Ṛg-veda. The 1893 revised edition added only the caption, “Rig Veda,” incorrectly attributing this translation to “Colebrooke.” Not until the carefully corrected 1978 edition of The Secret Doctrine, prepared by Boris de Zirkoff, was the source traced out and the reference accurately given. However, the 1888 first edition has often been reprinted, and is the edition that is now available online; so most readers still do not know what they are reading here. Boris de Zirkoff identified this quotation as Ṛg-veda 10.129, and found that this translation of it was quoted from Max Müller’s 1859 book, A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature. The translation is not, however, by Max Müller. In introducing it, Müller there writes, “I subjoin a metrical translation of this hymn, which I owe to the kindness of a friend.” Thus we do not know who made the translation quoted in The Secret Doctrine. This hymn consists of seven verses, which are not numbered in the metrical translation. Five of these unnumbered verses were quoted in The Secret Doctrine. These are verses 1-3 and 6-7 of Ṛg-veda 10.129.
The Vedas are considered to be the oldest texts known on earth that have been preserved up to the present in a still living tradition. The ancient commentaries that explain them, however, are all lost (or were withdrawn, see: The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, pp. xxiii ff.), and we have only some comparatively late commentaries on them. The overall or general meaning of the Ṛg-veda Hymn of Creation is not in question, but the intended meaning of a number of its words and sentences is far from certain. The standard commentaries now available, those by Sāyaṇa who lived in the 1300s C.E., were written at least two thousand years after the time of the Vedas, and probably considerably more. When the Vedas were first being studied by Western scholars, Sāyaṇa’s commentaries had to be consulted at every step, just to understand the words of the Vedas. The often unsatisfactory nature of his explanations, however, caused Western scholars to distrust them, and then to reject his commentaries. The next generation of Western scholars, disregarding Sāyaṇa’s commentaries, attempted to determine the meaning of the Vedas by comparing the usage of individual words in all their occurrences throughout the Vedic writings. While this often yielded good results, it was also often uncertain, leading to conflicting opinions. In brief, we do not know the exact meaning of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the Hymn of Creation.
We would all like to just read “the” translation of the Hymn of Creation and move on to making comparisons with the Book of Dzyan, or with any other cosmogony. Unfortunately, there is no agreed upon translation. Does the cosmos arise from nothing or from something? What does “that one” (or “that alone”) refer to? Can it be born? Can desire arise in it? Is the cosmos made by an overseer, God, a He? So unless and until the meaning given for any particular passage is explained and justified, anything more than general comparisons are only likely to lead to faulty conclusions. As noted by Walter Maurer in his excellent study, “A Re-examination of Ṛgveda X.129, the Nāsadīya Hymn” (Journal of Indo-European Studies, vol. 3, 1975, pp. 217-238, attached), the numerous existing translations of this hymn often just borrow from each other, without addressing the many difficulties of its interpretation. He writes (p. 219): “In all probability no hymn in the entire Ṛgveda has been the object of more attention than this short hymn of but seven stanzas. Moreover, it has been translated more than any other hymn in the whole collection, . . . But in spite of the attention that has been accorded this hymn, many difficulties continue to impede its interpretation. Unfortunately the translations, though numerous, tend to borrow from one another, especially in those parts where a fresh interpretation would be most welcome.”
It is also the case that most Western scholarship, and now much Indian scholarship, assumes that the Vedas come from primitive times and are the speculations of comparatively primitive people. So with this widely held presupposition, most translators are not willing to see “advanced” philosophical ideas in the Hymn of Creation. While scholars try to be objective, this basic presupposition does affect their translations. By contrast, Indian tradition holds that the Vedas come down to us from an “age of truth” (satya-yuga) or “age of perfection” (kṛta-yuga), the “golden age” of other traditions; and, far from being speculations, record facts of nature that were directly perceived by spiritually advanced sages, even if their symbolic language proves enigmatic to us. A respected Indian scholar who also studied in Europe, C. Kunhan Raja, tried to take an objective view of the Vedas, but did so without the presupposition that they are primitive. He writes in his Preface to his valuable 1963 book, Poet-Philosophers of the Ṛgveda: Vedic and Pre-Vedic (“Dedicated to K. F. Geldner, under whom I studied Veda and Avesta at Marburg”), p. x:
“I have never believed in the theory of the ‘evolution’ of philosophy in India, as now available in the Ṛgveda and the later texts like the Upaniṣads and the classical systems, from pastoral poetry relating to Animism and Anthropomorphism through Polytheism and Henotheism to Monotheism and Monism. In the Ṛgveda I have been able to detect only what Max Müller terms Henotheism (perhaps in its revised form of Kat-henotheism). I have never seen a Monotheism in the Ṛgveda nor in any current of thought in India similar to the Theism of, say, Christianity and Islam. There is a clear Monism; but that Monism is not quite what is meant by Monism in the terminology of later Indian Philosophy. The Monism in the Ṛgveda is a Matter-cum-Spirit unity and not the pure Spirit of latter-day Monism, in which matter is thought of only as an illusory transformation from the pure Spirit, and not a reality.”
As we will see, the question of just what monism is intended in the Hymn of Creation by its tad ekam, “that one” (or “that alone”), is a major factor in its interpretation. The comparatively late Indian commentaries see it as the same as the latter-day monism (or “non-dualism”) of Advaita Vedānta, while most Western scholarship disagrees that this hymn could be so philosophically advanced (or else views this hymn as a very late hymn, despite its archaic language). What Kunhan Raja sees in the Ṛgveda is exactly the monism that also can be found in the purāṇas, particularly in the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. The “Matter-cum-Spirit unity and not the pure Spirit of latter-day Monism” is exactly the primary substance (pradhāna) that is identified with the highest (para) brahman in the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā (see: Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Purāṇas, Part 2. “In the Beginning” as Derived from the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā). This is also exactly the monism taught in the Secret Doctrine or Wisdom Tradition from which the “Book of Dzyan” comes (reviewed in the first part of the post: Part 3. Tracing the Cosmogony Account from the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā).
For the reasons alluded to above, I concluded that it would be better to make a new translation of the Hymn of Creation for comparison with the Book of Dzyan, rather than to adopt one of the thirty or so English translations of Ṛg-veda 10.129 that I have gathered over the years. This will also provide a certain consistency of translation that allows for more accurate comparison with other cosmogony accounts, such as those from the Mokṣopāya and from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, also translated by me here. In so doing, I have tried to give equal consideration to the extant Indian commentaries and to the researches and word-studies of modern scholars, mostly Western. Regarding the latter, more than twenty English translations, along with Karl Geldner’s German translation and Louis Renou’s French translation, have already been posted in two files in the “References” section of this site, and additional materials will be posted and linked directly as I cite them. Regarding the former, besides the well-known commentaries of Sāyaṇa, both on Ṛg-veda 10.129 and on the same hymn as it is repeated in Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa 2.8.9 (where his commentary differs substantially), another commentary was published in full in 1965. This is the pre-Sāyaṇa commentary by Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava on the whole Ṛg-veda. Since none of these commentaries have been translated into English, and since Veṅkaṭa-Mādhava’s does not seem to have been used (or at least is not cited) by other translators, I have given relevant quotes from them in my notes. This is where I explain and justify my translation. As F. Max Müller said in his Introduction to his translations of Vedic Hymns long ago, which is just as true today, “The notes . . . must always constitute the more important part in a translation or, more truly, in a deciphering of Vedic hymns.” (Part I, pp. ix, cxxv, Sacred Books of the East, vol. 32, 1891, this first written in 1869.)
By David Reigle on January 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm
“Book of Dzyan,” stanza 1, verse 8, is given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 46) as:
“8. Alone, the one form of existence stretched boundless, infinite, causeless, in dreamless sleep; and life pulsated unconscious in universal space, throughout that All-Presence which is sensed by the ‘Opened Eye’ of the Dangma.”
In her commentary on this verse, Blavatsky says (p. 46): “The Secret Doctrine carries this idea into the region of metaphysics and postulates a ‘One Form of Existence’ as the basis and source of all things. But perhaps the phrase, the ‘One Form of Existence,’ is not altogether correct. The Sanskrit word is Prabhavapyaya, ‘the place, or rather plane, whence emerges the origination, and into which is the resolution of all things,’ says a commentator.”
This appears to be one of the very rare instances where we are given an original term, prabhavāpyaya, behind a translation, “the one form of existence,” from the Book of Dzyan. From what she told us earlier (p. 23), “Extracts are given from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit translations of the original Senzar Commentaries and Glosses on the Book of Dzyan,” this would be a term from the Sanskrit translation. It is also possible, however, that Blavatsky is here merely giving another, later Sanskrit equivalent of the Senzar term, as might be found in the later Sanskrit texts that are now available. The commentator referred to is Śrīdhara-svāmi. She quoted this Sanskrit term and its explanation from editor Fitzedward Hall’s footnote to H. H. Wilson’s translation of The Vishnu Purana (vol. 1, 1864, p. 21). I had at first favored the latter of these two possibilities, because I wondered why the Viṣṇu-purāṇa term would be found in the Sanskrit translation of the Book of Dzyan or its commentaries. The purāṇas as now extant are known to have been continually revised. But once we know that there was an original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, and that this word prabhavāpyaya was found in it, the former of the two possibilities becomes quite plausible. Moreover, prabhavāpyaya is a somewhat archaic Sanskrit word.
The word prabhavāpyaya is found in the fourth verse of the cosmogony account derived from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, as may be seen in the September 1 (2012) posting: Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Purāṇas, Part 2. “In the Beginning” as Derived from the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. This verse is:
anādy-antam ajaṃ sūkṣmaṃ tri-guṇaṃ prabhavāpyayam |
asāmpratam avijñeyaṃ brahmāgre samavarttata || 4.20 ||
4.20. In the beginning there was brahman, without beginning or end, unborn, subtle, having the three qualities (guṇa), the origin and cessation [of the cosmos], timeless, and unknowable.
The term prabhavāpyaya, here translated as “the origin and cessation [of the cosmos],” is a compound of two words: prabhava and apyaya. The first of these, prabhava, is common enough, and means “source” or “origin.” The second of these, apyaya, is quite uncommon and rather archaic. This word was so unfamiliar that in about half of the purāṇa sources it was changed over the centuries to the much more familiar avyaya, commonly understood as “imperishable.” In fact, the recently published critical edition of the Viṣṇu-purāṇa (see posting dated May 5, 2012) adopted prabhavāvyaya rather than prabhavāpyaya (1.2.21), based on 16 of 27 manuscripts. Yet, prabhavāpyaya is found in the famous Māṇḍūkya-upaniṣad (verse 6). What makes apyaya hard to recognize is the archaic prefix “api” rather than the standard prefix “abhi” (the change of final “i” to “y” before a vowel is normal). This is easily confused with the common Sanskrit indeclinable word, “api.” Once this is recognized as a prefix, a rare and little used prefix, the rest of the word’s derivation is simple. The “aya” can now be seen to come from the verb-root “i,” meaning “go.” The idea is “go into,” “enter into,” disappear or be absorbed. So it may be translated as “cessation” or “dissolution.”
The commentator Śrīdhara-svāmi explains apyaya by giving its verbal form, apiyanti, and glosses this as līyante, “dissolves.” He then says that it is the laya-sthāna, the “place of dissolution.” It is about this word “place” (sthāna) that Blavatsky says, “the place, or rather plane.” So she in turn glosses “place” as “plane,” attempting to give the idea behind prabhavāpyaya more accurately. How does one describe that which the cosmos originates from and then dissolves back into? The “one form of existence” is apparently Blavatsky’s attempt to render or paraphrase the meaning of the Senzar term, which she then tries to clarify by giving its Sanskrit translation, prabhavāpyaya. The evidence from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā gives us reason to believe that prabhavāpyaya is in fact an early Sanskrit translation of the Senzar term. Moreover, it is perhaps even a direct descendant of the phonetic Senzar term, more a transformation than a translation of this term.
By David Reigle on December 29, 2012 at 6:03 am
Prof. Giovanni Hoffman wrote in 1909 that the origin of the Book of Dzyan is the Chinese Taoist book entitled Yu-Fu-King, or The Book of Secret Correspondences (The Theosophist, vol. 31, Oct. 1909, pp. 64-65, attached as Book of Dzyan Giovanni Hoffman). There is a typographical error in the first syllable of this title. As given by James Legge in vol. 40 of the Sacred Books of the East, The Texts of Taoism, Part II, 1891, this title is Yin Fu King, or Classic of the Harmony of the Seen and the Unseen. In the Wade-Giles system of Chinese transcription, this title is Yin-fu Ching. In the currently used pinyin system it is Yinfujing, and the fuller title is Huangdi Yinfujing.
A couple of months ago a new HPB biography came out, Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality, by Gary Lachman. It mentions this idea on p. 257, where we read: “The sinologist Giovanni Hoffmann believed that the ‘Stanzas of Dzyan’ originate in the Book of the Secret Correspondences (Yu-Fu-King) of the fourth-century Taoist Ly-Tzyn.” This is referenced in a note to Wouter J. Hanegraaff’s 1996 book, New Age Religion and Western Culture, p. 453. Turning to that book, we there read:
“Karl R. H. Frick has called attention to an article by the sinologist Giovanni Hoffmann, who points to the teaching of a Taoist of the fourth century named Ly-tzyn, or Dzyan in Tibetan. His book, Yu-Fu-King or “The Book of Secret Correspondences”, was published in Florence in 1878. It seems probable that Blavatsky knew this book but incorrectly interpreted its contents as Vedic. If these suggestions are correct, Isis Unveiled was inspired by a kabbalistic source transmitted to Blavatsky in the context of Knorr von Rosenroth’s Christian kabbalah; and The Secret Doctrine by a Taoist treatise interpreted as Vedic.”
Dr. Hanegraaff is a leading scholar of western esoteric traditions, so he approached his subject from this perspective. He is not a Vedic scholar or a scholar of Chinese. I, too, am not a scholar of Chinese, but I had been studying Sanskrit for several years when I read the 1909 article from The Theosophist in the mid-1980s. That was sufficient for me to discount Prof. Hoffman’s statement made therein about Blavatsky and the Book of Dzyan that: “She has therefore the merit of having re-arranged the shapeless mass of the aphorisms of Dzyan or Tsian; but the doctrine exposed in these applies entirely to the Lao-ze School, and in no wise to the vedic, as she wished it to be believed.” So I filed the article away. Now that some attention has been called to it, I have gotten it out and scanned it and posted it here. Incidentally, the book published in Florence in 1878 is not the Yu-Fu-King or Yin Fu King as such, but rather is Il Buddha, Confucio e Lao-tse: notizie e studii intorno alle religioni dell’Asia Orientale, by Carlo Puini.
There are several English translations of the Yu-Fu-King or Yin Fu King or Yinfujing available today, and sufficient information on these is given in the Wikipedia entry, Huangdi Yinfujing. The 1891 translation by James Legge is now in the public domain and is available online. Since this is a very short text, I have here pasted in the entire translation. Readers can judge for themselves whether they think the Book of Dzyan is based on this Chinese Taoist text. I hardly need to call the attention of readers of this blog to the many Sanskrit parallels to the Book of Dzyan that have been here discussed. I would, however, like to add a word of appreciation to both Gary Lachman and Dr. Wouter Hanegraaff for their helpful and non-hostile approach to the work of Blavatsky.
Yin Fû King, or ‘Classic of the Harmony of the Seen and the Unseen.’
2. To Heaven there belong the five (mutual) foes 1, and he who sees them (and understands their operation) apprehends how they produce prosperity. The same five foes are in the mind of man, and when he can set them in action after the manner of Heaven, all space and time are at his disposal, and all things receive their transformations from his person 2.
3. The nature of Heaven belongs (also) to Man; the mind of Man is a spring (of power). When the Way of Heaven is established, the (Course of) Man is thereby determined. 1
4. When Heaven puts forth its power of putting to death, the stars and constellations lie hidden in darkness. When Earth puts forth its power of putting to death, dragons and serpents appear on the dry ground. When Man puts forth his power of putting to death, Heaven and Earth resume their (proper course). When Heaven and Man exert their powers in concert, all transformations have their commencements determined. 4_1
5. The nature (of man) is here clever and there stupid; and the one of these qualities may lie hidden in the other. The abuse of the nine apertures is (chiefly) in the three most important, which may be now in movement and now at rest. When fire arises in wood, the evil, having once begun, is sure to go on to the destruction of the wood. When
calamity arises in a state, if thereafter movement ensue, it is sure to go to ruin.
When one conducts the work of culture and refining wisely we call him a Sage. 5_1
2. 1. For Heaven now to give life and now to take it away is the method of the Tâo. Heaven and Earth are the despoilers of all things; all things are the despoilers of Man; and Man is the despoiler of all things. When the three despoilers act as they ought to do, as the three Powers, they are at rest. Hence it is said, ‘During the time of nourishment, all the members are properly regulated; when the springs of motion come into play, all transformations quietly take place.’ 1_1
2. Men know the mysteriousness of the Spirit’s (action), but they do not know how what is not Spiritual comes to be so. The sun and moon have their definite times, and their exact measures as
large and small. The service of the sages hereupon arises, and the spiritual intelligence becomes apparent. 2_1
3. The spring by which the despoilers are moved is invisible and unknown to all under the sky. When the superior man has got it, he strengthens his body by it; when the small man has got it, he makes light of his life. 3_1
3. 1. The blind hear well, and the deaf see well. To derive all that is advantageous from one source is ten times better than the employment of a host; to do this thrice in a day and night is a myriad times better. 1_1
2. The mind is quickened (to activity) by (external) things, and dies through (excessive pursuit of) them. The spring (of the mind’s activity) is in the eyes.
Heaven has no (special feeling of) kindness, but so it is that the greatest kindness comes from It.
The crash of thunder and the blustering wind both come without design. 2_1
3. Perfect enjoyment is the overflowing satisfaction of the nature. Perfect stillness is the entire disinterestedness of it. When Heaven seems to be most wrapt up in Itself, Its operation is universal in its character. 3_1
4. It is by its breath that we control whatever creature we grasp. Life is the root of death, and death is the root of life. Kindness springs from injury, and injury springs from kindness. He who sinks himself in water or enters amidst fire brings destruction on himself. 4_1
5. The stupid man by studying the phenomena and laws of heaven and earth becomes sage; I by studying their times and productions become intelligent. He in his stupidity is perplexed about sageness; I in my freedom from stupidity am the same. He considers his sageness as being an extraordinary attainment; I do not consider mine so. 5_1
6. The method of spontaneity proceeds in stillness, and so it was that heaven, earth, and all things were produced. The method of heaven and earth proceeds gently and gradually, and thus it is that the Yin and Yang overcome (each other by turns). The one takes the place of the other, and so change and transformation proceed accordingly. 6_1
7. Therefore the sages, knowing that the method of spontaneity cannot be resisted, take action accordingly and regulate it (for the purpose of culture). The way of perfect stillness cannot be subjected to numerical calculations; but it would seem that there
is a wonderful machinery, by which all the heavenly bodies are produced, the eight diagrams, and the sexagenary cycle; spirit-like springs of power, and hidden ghostlinesses; the arts of the Yin and Yang in the victories of the one over the other:–all these come brightly forward into visibility. 7_1
By David Reigle on December 26, 2012 at 5:47 am
Part 3. Tracing the Cosmogony Account from the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā
If the “Book of Dzyan” is real, we may wonder why it has been kept secret until H. P. Blavatsky brought out stanzas from it on cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis. In response to this question, it will be instructive to try to trace the cosmogony account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. As found in the various purāṇas now extant, this account goes from an impersonal primary substance as the origin of the world and of what people call God, to primary substance being equated with God, to God creating primary substance and the world through His will. Apparently the custodians of the “Book of Dzyan” did not want this to happen to its teachings, and thus preferred to hand down this book in secret. We see that its custodians, now known as the Theosophical Mahatmas, tried to address these very same questions of God and ultimate substance when they allowed some of the teachings from the “Book of Dzyan” to be made public.
Like any busy executive, the Theosophical Mahatmas normally imparted what they wanted to say to their “secretaries,” advanced chelas such as H. P. Blavatsky, who then passed it on to the appropriate party on their behalf. One of the two Englishmen who received “Mahatma letters” in this way in the early 1880s, in attempting to write an exposition of the occult philosophy that he gathered from these letters, had drafted a chapter on “God.” At this point the Mahatma K.H. replied, apparently directly, with one of the clearest and most forceful statements of their teachings that we have. As he said about this elsewhere, “I cannot permit our sacred philosophy to be so disfigured.” This extraordinary reply, known as Mahatma letter #10, is where the Mahatma says that they deny God, and that they believe in matter (or substance) alone. Here are a few highlights from it, starting with its opening sentence:
“Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H. . . . If people are willing to accept and to regard as God our ONE LIFE immutable and unconscious in its eternity they may do so and thus keep to one more gigantic misnomer. . . . When we speak of our One Life we also say that it penetrates, nay is the essence of every atom of matter; and that therefore it not only has correspondence with matter but has all its properties likewise, etc.—hence is material, is matter itself. . . . Matter we know to be eternal, i.e., having had no beginning. . . . As to God—since no one has ever or at any time seen him or it—unless he or it is the very essence and nature of this boundless eternal matter, its energy and motion, we cannot regard him as either eternal or infinite or yet self existing. . . . Then what do we believe in? . . . In other words we believe in MATTER alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist. . . . The existence of matter then is a fact; the existence of motion is another fact, their self existence and eternity or indestructibility is a third fact. And the idea of pure spirit as a Being or an Existence—give it whatever name you will—is a chimera, a gigantic absurdity.”
The idea of ultimate reality as eternal substance rather than a Godhead was so unexpected that it was doubted even by students of Theosophy and followers of the Theosophical Mahatmas. Is this really what the Mahatma meant? Did we understand him correctly? Is the letter authentic? Was it transmitted accurately? The three most advanced chelas of the Theosophical movement, H. P. Blavatsky, T. Subba Row, and Damodar Mavalankar, all agreed that the answer to these questions is “yes.” The teaching was correctly understood. Damodar Mavalankar, when reviewing a book in 1883, reiterated this teaching, and in so doing stressed that it is a central Theosophical teaching. He wrote:
“One point, however, may be noticed, as it is found to be constantly contradicted and picked holes into, by the theists as well as by all the supporters of independent creation—viz., the ‘definition of matter.’
“‘Kapila defines matter to be eternal and co-existent with Spirit. It was never in a state of non-being, but always in a state of constant change, it is subtle and sentient,’ &c., &c., (p. 2.)
“This is what the Editor of this Journal [H. P. Blavatsky] has all along maintained and can hardly repeat too often. The article: ‘What is Matter and what is Force?’ in the Theosophist for September 1882, is sufficiently lucid in reference to this question. It is at the same time pleasant to find that our learned friend and brother, Mr. T. Subba Row Garu, the great Adwaitee scholar, shares entirely with all of us these views, which every intuitional scholar, who comprehends the true spirit of the Sankhya philosophy, will ever maintain. This may be proved by the perusal of a recent work on ‘Yoga Philosophy’ by the learned Sanskritist, Dr. Rajendra Lala Mittra, the Introduction to which has just appeared, showing clearly how every genuine scholar comprehends the Sankhya in the same spirit as we do. The ONE LIFE of the Buddhists, or the Parabrahm of the Vedantins, is omnipresent and eternal. Spirit and matter are but its manifestations. As the energising force—Purush of Kapila—it is Spirit—as undifferentiated cosmic matter, it is Mulaprakriti. As differentiated cosmic matter, the basis of phenomenal evolution, it is Prakriti. In its aspect of being the field of cosmic ideation, it is Chidakasam; as the germ of cosmic ideation it is Chinmatra; while in its characteristic of perception it is Pragna. Whoever presumes to deny these points denies the main basis of Hindu Philosophy and clings but to its exoteric, weather-beaten, fast fading out shell.”
(The Theosophist, vol. 4, no. 12, September 1883, p. 318)
The article that Damodar refers to, “What is Matter and What Is Force?,” also authored by the Mahatma K.H., sums up in its conclusion:
“Therefore, whether it is called Force or Matter, it will ever remain the Omnipresent Proteus of the Universe, the one element—LIFE—Spirit or Force at its negative, Matter at its positive pole; the former the MATERIO-SPIRITUAL, the latter, the MATERIO-PHYSICAL Universe—Nature, Svabhavat or INDESTRUCTIBLE MATTER.”
In Mahatma letter #22, a follow-up to Mahatma letter #10, the Mahatma K.H. says about spirit and matter: “it is one of the elementary and fundamental doctrines of Occultism that the two are one, and are distinct but in their respective manifestations, and only in the limited perceptions of the world of senses.” In letter #10 after saying “we believe in MATTER alone,” he went on, “with its unceasing motion which is its life.” In letter #22 he explained: “Motion is eternal because spirit is eternal. But no modes of motion can ever be conceived unless they be in connection with matter.” That is why he cannot accept spirit as a principle distinct from matter. Spirit, puruṣa, is the motion or life of matter, prakṛti. And that is why he would give matter as primary, saying “we believe in MATTER alone” rather than “we believe in SPIRIT alone.” There can be no motion without something to move.
Thus, understanding “matter alone” to be living matter or substance, endowed with motion or life or spirit, we have a succinct statement of ultimate reality as taught in the Wisdom Tradition now known as Theosophy. As already noted, ultimate reality, the highest (para) brahman, is clearly and unambiguously equated with primary substance (pradhāna) and substance or matter (prakṛti) in the cosmogony account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. This makes the cosmogony account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā to be of particular value for our Book of Dzyan research. It provides, in the oldest form that can be traced, of the most central sourcebooks of Hindu cosmogony, direct agreement with what is understood to be a fundamental teaching of the Wisdom Tradition that the Book of Dzyan comes from.
We may now proceed to try to trace the cosmogony account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā through its changes in the now extant purāṇas, and try to see how the teaching of primary substance as ultimate reality was displaced by that of God. It is a good lesson in what happens to primeval truths over time in the hands of the public. It illustrates why the custodians of the “Book of Dzyan” preferred to preserve it in secret.
Our oldest sources (the Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa purāṇas) report only one player here in the first verse of the creation or emanation (sarga) account derived from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, namely, the unmanifest (avyakta), the cause (kāraṇa), called primary substance (pradhāna), or substance (prakṛti). This same verse is also found with no substantial variants in the Kūrma Purāṇa (4.6) and the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa (1.77.2), and somewhat re-worded in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (1.2.19) and the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa (45.32), but adding only the adjective “subtle” (sūkṣma) to “substance” (prakṛti). Primary substance (unmanifest, and quite non-physical, we recall) is in the following lines of the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā account described as the highest (para) brahman, ultimate reality.
In other than the oldest sources of the creation or emanation (sarga) account derived from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā we find its first verse in more or less modified form. Padma Purāṇa 1.2.8 merely summarizes that everything emanates (sṛjati) from the unmanifest (avyakta), the cause (kāraṇa), what was called primary substance (pradhāna) in the fuller verse. The “Laws of Manu,” Manu-smṛti 1.11, specifies that what emanated from this is the puruṣa (“person, male”) called Brahmā. Brahmā is the creator god (not the neuter absolute brahman). So puruṣa is here not the cosmic principle “spirit,” who would be our second major player. Rather, this Manu-smṛti verse introduces our third main player, the puruṣa (“person” or “male”) who is equivalent to the creator god Brahmā, and who is also called īśvara, “God,” or loka-bhāvana, “creator of the world(s),” in other variations of this verse.
Besides in Manu-smṛti 1.11, puruṣa is also brought into this verse as it is found in Brahma Purāṇa 1.33 or 1.34, Harivaṃśa 1.17, and Śiva Purāṇa 5.29.5. Here things get fuzzy in regard to how puruṣa is meant. Although the Manu-smṛti no doubt underwent modification, it probably did so less than most of the purāṇas did. So we may take its version of this verse as a reasonably reliable guide for comparison on this question. As already noted, its Brahmā, the creator god, or the synonyms īśvara, “God,” and loka-bhāvana, “creator of the world(s),” bring in puruṣa as our third main player, rather than puruṣa as the cosmic principle “spirit.”
In Brahma Purāṇa 1.33 or 1.34, īśvara (“God”) is the puruṣa (“person, male”), and he produces (nirmame) the universe from primary substance (pradhāna). The very same wording also occurs in Harivaṃśa 1.17, except that it has puruṣa in a grammatically different case (puruṣam rather than puruṣas), so that puruṣa is no longer īśvara. Here, if we accept this grammatically problematic reading, puruṣa may be taken as the cosmic principle “spirit” rather than as the “person” or “male.” Then to make sense of the verse we must force its construal, and have it say that īśvara (“God”) produces the universe from primary substance (pradhāna) and spirit (puruṣa). For the Harivaṃśa we have a critical edition, and we see that not all of the manuscripts accepted this reading (puruṣam rather than puruṣas). Indeed, the oldest manuscript says just the opposite, that pradhāna (primary substance) and puruṣa (spirit) produce (nirmame) this creator of the world (loka-bhāvana; i.e., Brahmā, given in the following verse).
This verse as found in Śiva Purāṇa 5.29.5 is even more grammatically problematic. Here is what the “Board of Scholars” who translated it could make of it: “Puruṣa is eternal and he is of the nature of Sat and Asat as Pradhāna and Puruṣa. The creator of the worlds created Pradhāna after becoming Puruṣa.” This would be a reversal, having puruṣa, spirit, create pradhāna, primary substance. This, of course, makes little sense when pradhāna is everywhere said to be eternal, and therefore could never be created.
So of the four sources that bring puruṣa into this verse, puruṣa is clearly the “person” or “male” as Brahmā, the creator god, in Manu-smṛti 1.11, and as īśvara (“God”) in Brahma Purāṇa 1.33 or 1.34. Because of a grammatically questionable reading in Harivaṃśa 1.17, and multiple ones in Śiva Purāṇa 5.29.5, we cannot say that these verses unambiguously bring in puruṣa as the cosmic principle “spirit.” Our second major player, puruṣa as the cosmic principle “spirit,” appears unambiguously only in the fourth verse of this account only as it is found in the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa (1.77.5). This verse may be translated as: “. . . without form, unknowable, they call this the highest (para) puruṣa. By the self (ātman) of this great self (mahātman) all this world is pervaded.” Here puruṣa, like pradhāna in its first verse, is clearly used as a synonym of the absolute brahman. However, the other purāṇas that have this account in full (Vāyu, Brahmāṇḍa, Kūrma, and Liṅga, and also its somewhat re-worded form in the Mārkaṇḍeya) all have brahman here in this verse rather than puruṣa. So it is probable that only brahman, and not puruṣa as “spirit,” is found here in the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā.
Lastly, we get to the first verse of the creation or emanation (sarga) account as found in Liṅga Purāṇa 1.70.3. We have seen that in Manu-smṛti 1.11 puruṣa as the creator god Brahmā emanates from the unmanifest (avyakta), also called primary substance (pradhāna), and that in Brahma Purāṇa 1.33/1.34 puruṣa as īśvara (“God”) produces the universe from primary substance (pradhāna). Now in the Liṅga Purāṇa what had been merely our third player trumps our first player. Here in the preceding verse the great God (mahā-īśvara, maheśvara), also known as Śiva, stands above substance (prakṛti) and spirit (puruṣa), and is equated with the highest self (parama-ātman). From this God (īśvarāt tasmāt) came (abhavat, “became”) the unmanifest (avyakta), the cause (kāraṇa), called primary substance (pradhāna) and substance (prakṛti). Our verses now continue unchanged (except ajara for ajāta), bringing in the highest (para) brahman as a synonym of primary substance (pradhāna). But here the Liṅga Purāṇa adds “impelled by the command of God” (īśvara-ājñā-pracodita). After another unchanged verse (except aprakāśa for asāmprata), the Liṅga Purāṇa account concludes with one more dramatic change: It was “by the will of Śiva” (śiva-icchayā) that “all this [universe] was pervaded by its [brahman’s] self (ātman).” So here in a full reversal, God creates primary substance (pradhāna), rather than God emanates from primary substance.
The idea of a God who can create even primary substance, supposed to be eternal, found its way into this cosmogony account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā only gradually. In the Liṅga Purāṇa version of it, primary substance is stated to have originated from God or Śiva. The Kūrma Purāṇa version of it is also preceded by a verse bringing in God, stating that the great God (mahā-īśvara, maheśvara), also known as Śiva, is above the unmanifest (avyakta), and is the niyantṛ (regulator, controller, governor) [of the universe]. Here, however, this God may be equated with primary substance rather than being its creator, by way of the relative pronoun, yat, in the first verse of the cosmogony account proper. After the verse that precedes this account, the Kūrma Purāṇa continues with a largely unchanged version of this cosmogony account in comparison with that found in the Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa purāṇas.
A verse mentioning God and the great God similar to the one preceding the cosmogony account in the Kūrma Purāṇa also found its way into the Vāyu Purāṇa, in a different location (1.42 or 1.48-49), although it is not found in the corresponding Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa. Its construal with the verse that follows it, the same verse that appears in Padma Purāṇa 1.2.8 (mentioned above), is ambiguous. But in yet another location, the Vāyu (2.41.36 or 103.36) and Brahmāṇḍa (188.8.131.52) purāṇas clearly state that the great God (mahā-īśvara, maheśvara) arises from the unmanifest (avyakta), the cause (kāraṇa), from primary substance (pradhāna) and spirit (puruṣa), and this God is also there called Brahmā, the creator god. In other words, the great God (mahā-īśvara, maheśvara) is there equated with our third player.
In the cosmogony account that can be recovered from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, no God is involved. The impersonal “great” (mahat) principle, also called the principle of intelligence (buddhi), emanates from primary substance, and the world emanates from the “great” principle. The “great” principle then came to be called the creator god Brahmā, or just God (īśvara), or even the great God (mahā-īśvara, maheśvara). Once this happened, God became more and more powerful in human estimation. So as seen above, we go from no God, to God who emanates from primary substance, to God who is equated with primary substance, to God who creates primary substance. As the idea of God moved in, the teaching of ultimate primary substance faded out (see: “God’s Arrival in India”). Yet, ultimate primary substance, endowed with motion or life or spirit, is affirmed to be the original teaching of the Wisdom Tradition, and the evidence from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā strongly supports this.
By Jacques Mahnich on December 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm
An english translation of the SURYA-SIDDHANTA has been uploaded on this site library under the REFERENCES index, INDIAN TRADITIONS header : http://prajnaquest.fr/downloads/BookofDzyan/IndianTraditions/Others/Surya%20Siddhanta.pdf
It was translated from the sanskrit by Pandit Bâpû Deva Shâstri, and published in 1860 by the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
It is bounded with a translation of the SIDDHANTA SHIROMANI, translated by Lancelot Wilkinson and Pandit Bâpû Deva Shâstri, published in 1861.
In his postscript of the SURYA-SIDDHANTA, Bâpû Deva explained that eighteen Siddhanta were written, of which only four were procurable during his time (SÛRYA-Sid., BRAHMA-Sid., SOMA Sid., and VASISHTA-Sid.). The SURYA Sid. is supposed to be the oldest.
Page 108 (SIDDHANTA SHIROMANI) gives another calculation for the elapsed-time-since-the-beginning-of-this-kalpa :
“Of the present KALPA, 6 Manus with their 7 Sandhis, 27 Yugas ans their 3 Yuga’Nghri (Krita, Treta, and Dwapara), and 3179 sidereal years of the fourth Yuga’Nghri of the 28th Yuga of the 7th Manu, that is to say 1,972,947,179 sidereal years have elapsed from the beginning of the present Kalpa to the commencement of the Sa’liwa’hana era.”
Note : Saliwahana was a king of southern India, born in 78 A.D., starting the “Saka Era”.
Compared to H.P.B. number given in the S.D (vol II, page 68), there is a gross difference of 1,972,947,179 – 1,955,884,687 = 17,062,492 years for the elapsed time since the beginning of cosmic evolution.
By David Reigle on November 23, 2012 at 4:24 am
This is the title of an article published in The Theosophist, vol. 15, 1893, by N. Ramanuja Charri. Although he numbers the verses here translated by him starting with number 1, these verses come from chapter 12 of the Sūrya-siddhānta, where they are numbered 12-32. The file is here attached: “Cosmogenesis according to the Sūrya-siddhānta.”
By David Reigle on November 4, 2012 at 4:31 am
…..IN THE MATRIX OF THE PRIMORDIAL DEITIES
“…in the night of Sun-chan.”
- Michael Lewis and Ken Small
Blavatskys’ final version of Stanza one and also her Tibetan phonetic source is indented from the original in the Secret Doctrine Proem, p. 23. The earlier version from Blavatsky’s 1886 manuscript is given after the later one under sub a.
(Michael Lewis translation / interpretation and comments follow in bold italics and plain type. I have made the arrangement and editing. K.S.)
1. THE ETERNAL PARENT WRAPPED IN HER EVER INVISIBLE ROBES HAD SLUMBERED ONCE AGAIN FOR SEVEN ETERNITIES
1a. THE Eternal Mother (space) wrapped in her ever invisible robes (cosmic prenebular matter had slumbered for seven Eternities,
Tho-ag in zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo
The Potential of Spatiality as the Fundamental Cause [or Causal Ground] slept for seven cycles
Tho-ok = the ‘boundless all’ equivalent to Parmenides apeiron = boundless
Tho = above and ok = below (see example of this usage in the Throma sadhana). Tibetan often makes use of two extremes to create a definition, in this case ‘above/below’ giving the meaning of ‘spatiality’.
Zhi gyu = uncaused cause or fundamental cause ( Zhi-ma would negate this)
2. TIME WAS NOT, FOR IT LAY ASLEEP IN THE INFINITE BOSOM OF DURATION.
2a. (identical rendering)
Patiently the One Mind peacefully abided
Zhipa = patient Manas = mind in Sanskrit Yeh Zhi = primordial ground or original foundation = Dharmakaya. This would be ‘aja-sakti, the unborn, a Dzogchen term which Blavatsky references in her article on ‘Tibetan Teachings’ give ref.)
All Nyug bosom.
All was in [the bosom of] the Ultimate Natural State.
Nyug is the same as Nyuk. The nyuk that David Reigle is referring to is spelled snug and means quite correctly duration. However gnyug(ma) which is usually short for gnyug ma’i sems means the genuine innate, interrupted ongoing, perpetual, original natural state or nature or the authentic original untouched nature which is virtually synonymous with Dzogchen. It is said to be ‘ma sam gur pay nur lay day’ = inconceivable and ineffable and cannot be an object of intellective consciousness. As Joseph Campbell says “no tongue can soil it with a name.” The secondary meaning is of continuously residing or indigenous = Sanskrit nija. ‘Nyuk me sems’ is a synonym for rigpa, the uncontrived untouched natural complete awareness spontaneously present. The original, indigenous ‘resident’ of the universe, the mandala of Samantabhadra. The ‘ma’ in gnyugma’ = the motherly underlying empty essence and refers directly to the prajna paramita – the motherly wisdom of the Buddhas. Blavatsky conveys this by her use of the word ‘bosom’ as a poetic metaphor to convey the correct feeling tone for this meaning.
- 3. UNIVERSAL MIND WAS NOT, FOR THERE WERE NO AH-HI TO CONTAIN IT.
3a. Time was not, for there were no Dhyan Chohans to contain (hence to manifest) it.
There was no separate existence of Deity;
Konchok – when the Moravian missionaries translated the Christian Bible into Tibetan they used the word ‘Konchog’ when translating ‘God’. It could be translated as ‘supreme superiors’.
Regarding ‘AH-HI’, the expression ‘Ah-hay’ = ‘hadewa’ which means the awe surprised wondering awareness, uncontained. It is also similar to ‘ATI’
Everything was non-dual and was absorbed in the primordial state;
[alternative] Nor was there meditative absorption with formal substratum
[alternative] The one elemnt was absorbed in the primordial state.
Tian Kham = Dhyan = meditative absorption and Kham = formal substratum
or Thyan-Kam = element.
There were no gods or exalted ones;
Lha = gods and Chohan = exalted ones
- 4. THE SEVEN WAYS TO BLISS WERE NOT. THE GREAT CAUSES OF MISERY WERE NOT, FOR THERE WAS NO ONE TO PRODUCE AND GET ENSNARED BY THEM.
4a. (identical rendering)
Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
There was no twelvefold chain of interdependent arising
- 5. DARKNESS ALONE FILLED THE BOUNDLESS ALL, FOR FATHER, MOTHER AND SON WERE ONCE MORE ONE, AND THE SON HAD NOT AWAKENED YET FOR THE NEW WHEEL, AND HIS PILGRIMAGE THEREON.
5a. (Identical rendering with only without the ending phrase “and his pilgrimage thereon.” is not in this earlier version.)
Cho lon yang me = Dharmakaya also was not
“A very profound view. I don’t believe this is discussed or elucidated anywhere as a philosophical concept in Buddhist philosophy. Perhaps in Dzogchen, but I do not know of any reference at this time either translated or in Tibetan.” (M.L.)
Tgenchang not become;
Anything having specific characteristics had not yet become.
Tgenchang could be rgyen chang = ornament holder. The ‘T’ is not a correct prefix.
Barnang and Ssa in Ngovonyidj
The blazing forth of experience and its ground in shear essentiality was what was.
Barnang = blazing appearance. Nang = the same meaning as Pleroma in Greek = ‘lighting up’ and implying objects of cognition.
6. THE SEVEN SUBLIME LORDS AND THE SEVEN TRUTHS HAD CEASED TO BE, AND THE UNIVERSE, THE SON OF NECESSITY, WAS IMMERSED IN PARANISHPANNA, TO BE OUTBREATHED BY THAT WHICH IS AND YET IS NOT. NAUGHT WAS.
6a. The seven sublime Truths, and the Seven Srutis—had ceased to be, and the Universe, the Son of Necessity, was plunged in Paranishpanna (absolute perfecton, Paranivwana, which is Jong-grub)—to be outbreathed by that which is, and yet is not. Naught was,
Alone Tho-og Yinsin in night of Sun-chan
The potential of spatiality alone held existence in the night of Sun-chan
[or alternative rendering]
The matrix from which would arise the primal deities alone held existence
Sun – chun – according to Chandra Das quoting de Koros, Sun-chun means ancestral spirit or tutelary deities and chan means possessed of. It would be useful to look for this term in a Zhang-Zhung dictionary.
and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna)
and everything was already accomplished there.
By David Reigle on November 2, 2012 at 4:46 am
The late Prof. F. B. J. Kuiper thought that cosmogony is “The Basic Concept of Vedic Religion.” In his article of that title, he tells why (History of Religions, vol. 15, 1975, pp. 107-108):
“The key to an insight into this religion is, I think, to be found in its cosmogony, that is, the myth which tells us how, in primordial time, this world came into existence. This myth owed its fundamental importance to the fact that every decisive moment in life was considered a repetition of the primeval process. Therefore the myth was not merely a tale of things that had happened long ago, nor was it a rational explanation of how this world had become what it is now. The origin of the world constituted the sacred prototype of how, in an endlessly repeated process, life and this world renewed themselves again and again.”
The Doctrine of ‘Nature Origination’ in the Korean Ch’an Buddhism of Chinul and Li T’ung Hsuan’s ‘Hua-yen’ – by Ken Small
By admin on September 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm
[ ADMIN Note : The following post was provided par Ken Small as an introduction to a new discovery which is of much interest for the students of the Theosophical teachings on Svabhava. This is opening a new area for research. Thanks to him for sharing this insight with us.]
One of the most important and challenging concepts in Blavatsky’s ‘Secret Doctrine’ is the doctrine of ‘svabhava’ or ‘svabhavat’.
David Reigle in his opening to his chapter on ‘The Doctrine of Svabhava’ makes reference to works “… found in the Bodhisattva-bhumi, attributed to Asanga … or to Maitreya… . This text in its tattvartha or “reality” chapter speaks of the inexpressible svabhavata (nature or essence) of all the elements of existence … . Being beyond the range of speech, this absolute (paramarthika) svabhava of all dharmas is accessible only to non-conceptual wisdom (nirvikalpa-jnana)…” (BSB, p.106 – Reigle)
Reigle continues in this chapter of his book (Blavatsky’s Secret Books p.106) linking this svabhava doctrine to the tathagata-garbha doctrine found in Maitreya’s Ratna-gotra-vibhaga, and questions on svabhava, anatman and sunyata are delved into and a process of clarifying their relation to Blavatsky’s. A question that frequently arises is how these ideas, so harmonious with the Theosophical view, continue in living traditions today?
The Korean Ch’an (kor. Son) schools descending from the 12th century founding teacher Chinul remain currently active and in practice. Many scholars and practicioners today consider him the founder of the unified Son (Ch’an) / Kyo (doctrinal Buddhism) Korean Buddhism of today. Chinul was a unique figure that merged together both Ch’an and Hua-yen view into one school of thought and practice. While this is a large subject to cover that would require a book length text, a few points are here quoted that appear to relate closely to subjects in Blavatsky’s perennial Theosophy.
So, as I was recently studying the schools and writings that are sourced in the Avatamsaka sutra (see Cleary’s translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra and his introductory notes), I came across this Korean (Chinul) branch that appears to follow this unique approach to ‘nature’ or ‘svabhava’. It is from the Hua yen tradition through a famous layman, named Li T’ung-hsuan (635 CE – 730). His ideas of ‘nature origination’ find currency again in the Korean Ch’an/Hua yen teacher Chinul* (1158-1210). Here appears an approach to svabhava that appears similar to Blavatsky’s and is rare in Buddhism. I have noted here a few other points of potential confluence between Hua-yen and Blavatsky, including within Hua-yen the following: on the subject of universality and particularity, the one and the many, the nature of time, the identity of mutual interpenetration and identity, the One Mind, microcosm and macrocosm, equivalence of Buddha nature and emptiness, etc. All this is open for new understandings and exploration. It is of interest to also note that within Hua-yen is a unified view of sunyata and the tathagatagarbha doctrines. In what follows I will give some brief quotes from translated sources and scholarly commentary about this aspect of Hua-yen tradition. This is no attempt at even an overview of a very vast and complex subject within Hua-yen, but only to give some very introductory ideas and points of reference of areas for its further study with Blavatsky’s Theosophic perennialism.
Also, always the cautionary note, that it is often rather challenging to get the source terms correctly aligned, when going from Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, Korean and then to the often barely adequate English, where one word may be used for very different ideas, or several words interchangeably for the same Buddhist term. So what follows is very preliminary.
The Korean ‘song’ or ‘songgi’ or Chinese ‘hsing-chi’ for the Sanskrit svabhava (see Odin p. 63) is translated into English as ‘nature’. (I have added some areas in bold for emphasis)
Buswell gives the source for ‘nature’ as:
“prakriti, svabhava: The unchanging, absolute nature of all dharmas; contrasted with characteristics.” (CWC – Buswell p.400)
Regarding ‘nature origination’:
Chinul discovered the philosophical basis for such correlated doctrines as the primacy of faith, the primordial identification of sentient beings with Buddha, and sudden awakening, in Li T’ung-hsuan’s radical and unorthodox doctrine of nature origination. (Chi. Hsing-chi; Kor. Yuan-chi) (PMHYB p. 63 Odin)
Chinul emphasizes that whereas conditioned origination articulates reality from the perspective of multiple phenomena (shih) or dynamic function (yung), nature origination articulates reality from the perspective of principle (li) or universal essence (t’i). Where as conditioned origination requires an intermediary intellectual framework of interpenetration and mutual fusion to identify principle (li) with phenomena (shih), the more radical doctrine of nature-origination, instead emphasizes the non-production or non-origination of phenomena and requires no intermediary conceptual apparatus. (PMHYB p. 64 Odin)
The usual interpretation of faith as a belief in the possibility of becoming a Buddha through the step by step procedure of faith, understanding, practice and authentication was changed into the new idea that faith is the resolute conviction that one is already identified with Buddhahood. (PMHYB p. 61 Odin quoting Shim)
Regarding the ethic of Hua-yen, Cleary comments:
The Hua-yen doctrine shows the entire cosmos as one single nexus of conditions in which everything simultaneously depends on, and is depended on by, everything else. Seen in this light, then, everything affects and is affected by, more or less immediately or remotely, everything else; just as this is true of every system of relationships, so is it true of the totality of existence.… The accord of this view with the experience of modern science is obvious, and it seems to be an appropriate basis upon which the question of the relation of science and bioethics – an issue of contemporary concern – may be resolved. … The ethic of the Hua-yen teaching is based on this fundamental theme of universal interdependenc.
(EITI p. 3 Cleary)
Francis Cook states:
Hua-yen is certainly a type of pan-Buddhism. (HYB p.92, Cook)
We might, as a matter of fact, characterize Hua-yen as a species of tathagatagarbha thought which is in turn based on the doctrine of emptiness. Even this is not the whole truth, for it tends to distort the relationship between the two doctrines. Ultimately, sunyata and tathagatagarbha are alternate expressions for the same reality.
(HYB, p.36 Cook)
All men possess a point of numinous brightness which is still like space and pervades every region. When contrasted with mundane affairs, it is expediently called the noumenal nature. When contrasted with formations and consciousness, it is provisionally called the true mind. (CWC p. 181 Buswell quoting Chinul)
Odin comments on unity and multiplicity in Hua-yen:
The dialectical interpenetration of unity and multiplicity or subjectivity and objectivety in Hua-yen Buddhism essentially represents a microcosmic-macrocosmic model of reality wherein each dharma or event becomes a living mirror of the totality, reflecting all other dharmas—past, present, and future alike—from its own standpoint in nature … not unlike Leibniz’s theory of “monads” or perspectival mirrors in the West. (PMHYB p. 16 Odin)
Keel quoting Tsung-mi:
The original Essence of True Mind has two kinds of function: One is the original function of Self Nature, and the other is the function according to external conditions. If we compare them to copper, the quality of copper is its Essence of
Self-Nature, its brightness the function of Self-Nature, and the reflections appearing on it the Functions according to conditions … Analogously, the constant quiescence of Mind is the Essence of Self-Nature, the constant knowing of Mind the function of Self-Nature, and to talk, to speak, and to distinguish are the Functions according to conditions. (TFKST p.87 Keel)
Nature giving rise to Characteristics (Phenomena, Functions) is called in Hua-yen doctrine Origination-by-Nature (songgi) as distinguished from Origination-by-condition (yongi). To see a phenomena from the vantage point of Origination-by-Nature means to understand it in its phenomenality, in its conditioned nature, and thus in its Emptiness. So long as a thing is seen in its Nature of Origination-by-Condition, it is Origination-by-nature at the same time. Further, so long as one sees a phenomena in this way, it is seen as a Function of the Essence of True Mind. Thus, for Chinul, the logic of Origination-by-Nature underlies the truth of the mysterious Function of True Mind. Every phenomena, seen in this way, no longer becomes an obstruction to our spiritual freedom but is affirmed plainly as it is. (TFKST p.84-85 Keel)
Buswell clarifying some implications of ‘nature origination’:
Chinul’s acceptance of the doctrine of nature origination (songgi) rather than the conditioned origination of the dharmadhatu stems from the formers superiority in the development of practice. While conditioned origination might be theoretically valid, its efficacy from a pragmatic standpoint is limited. The emphasis on nature origination had important implications for Chinul’s synthesis of the theoretical views of the Hwaom [Hua-yen] and Son [Ch’an] schools …
(CWC pp. 232-233 Buswell)
This is only a brief taste of a few key points in the ideas of Chinul and Li T’ung Hsuan. It is to be hoped that gradually as more of the writings of the Hua-yen and Korean Son (Ch’an) teachers become translated, more light on these ideas will be possible. Certainly, it can be said, that the harmonious confluences between Hua-yen and Blavatsky’s Theosophic perennialism point to a significant and dynamic confluence of views useful to deepening our study and practice in both arenas.
*The Avatamsaka’s influence continued through out the later course of Ch’an history, and is especially noticeable in the thought of Chinul (1158-1210), who during the Koryo Dynasty (937-1392) revivied the declining fortunes of the Ch’an school in Korea. Chinul was profoundly influenced by Tsung-mi … Another important influence on chnul was that of Li T’ung-hsuan (635-730), also an important Hua-yen figure. The Avatamsaka’s influence on Ch’an has been such that it has even been suggested that Ch’an is the practical expression of the profound and comprehensive teaching of the Avatamsaka.
(MTBAAS p.20 Cheng Chien Bhikshu)
References referred to and recommended for further study:
Buswell, Robert E. – The Collected Works of Chinul
Cheng Chien Bhikshu – Manifestation of the Tathagata: Buddhahood According to the Avatamsaka Sutra
Cleary, Thomas – Entry into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism
Cleary, Thomas – The Avatamsaka Sutra
Cook, Francis H. – Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra
Keel, Hee-Sung – Chinul:The Founder of the Korean Son [Ch’an] Tradition
Odin, Steve – Process Metaphysics and Hua-yen Buddhism
Reigle, David and Nancy – Blavatsky’s Secret Books
By David Reigle on September 1, 2012 at 5:54 am
Part 2. “In the Beginning” as Derived from the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā
The first verse of the actual creation or emanation (sarga) account from the Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa purāṇas is repeated in so many other sources that we can feel sure it is from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. The initial nine lines of this account are repeated in enough other purāṇas that we may assume all nine are from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. These nine lines describe the stage “in the beginning” (agre), before creation or emanation has begun, directly parallel to stanza I of the “Book of Dzyan.” As we know, the purāṇas have undergone revision, in many cases extensive revision, and this account found in them is no exception. When following this account from one purāṇa to another, we see things changing, until it says something entirely opposite of how it started out. Like a drama or mystery novel, in which we never know who did what to whom, so we never know what to expect in any given purāṇa as to what emanated from what and by what. It may therefore be worthwhile to start introducing the cast of players.
The purāṇas follow a Sāṃkhya model of cosmogony overall, so that two of the main players will be puruṣa and prakṛti, often translated as “spirit” and “matter.” This “matter” is not physical matter, as “matter” has now come to be understood, but rather is an unmanifest something that manifests as everything from the principle of intelligence (buddhi) to the principle of self-consciousness (ahaṃkāra) to mind or thought (manas) to the sense-faculties (buddhīndriya) to the great elements (mahā-bhūta), included in which latter is physical matter. I will therefore translate prakṛti as the slightly better “substance” rather than as “matter,” although we still must remember that it is unmanifest “substance”; and that when it does manifest, we must remember just how non-physical most of its manifestation is. A much-used synonym of prakṛti is pradhāna, meaning “primary,” so I will translate pradhāna as “primary substance.” Another common synonym for prakṛti (“substance”) and pradhāna (“primary substance”) is avyakta, the “unmanifest,” often seen in the phrase, vyaktāvyaktajña, the “manifest” (vyakta), the “unmanifest” (avyakta, i.e., pradhāna or prakṛti), and the “knower” (jña, i.e., puruṣa). It is this term, “unmanifest” (avyakta), that begins the first verse of the creation or emanation (sarga) account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. Here is that verse, as found in the Vāyu (4.17 or 4.18-19) and Brahmāṇḍa (184.108.40.206-9) purāṇas:
avyaktaṃ kāraṇaṃ yat tu nityaṃ sad-asad-ātmakam |
pradhānaṃ prakṛtiṃ caiva yam āhus tattva-cintakāḥ || 4.17 ||
“The unmanifest (avyakta) is the cause, eternal, and of the nature of existence and non-existence. Those who contemplate the principles of reality call it primary substance (pradhāna) and substance (prakṛti).”
The first verse of stanza I of the “Book of Dzyan” begins: “The Eternal Parent (Space), wrapped in her ever invisible robes, . . .” Blavatsky comments (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 35): “The ‘Parent Space’ is the eternal, ever present cause of all . . . .” Here, “parent” clearly corresponds to the “cause” of the purāṇa verse, and both call it “eternal” (nitya). Blavatsky continues: “. . . whose ‘invisible robes’ are the mystic root of all matter, and of the Universe. . . . Thus, the ‘Robes’ stand for the noumenon of undifferentiated Cosmic Matter. It is not matter as we know it, but the spiritual essence of matter, and is co-eternal and even one with Space in its abstract sense. . . . The Hindus call it Mulaprakriti, and say that it is the primordial substance, . . .” Here again, “invisible robes” clearly corresponds to the “primary substance (pradhāna) and substance (prakṛti)” of the purāṇa verse.
The unmanifest primordial substance is called “absolute abstract Space” in the explanation of the first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, pp. 14-15). Along with “absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness” (i.e., spirit or puruṣa), it is one of the two aspects under which the “one absolute Reality,” the “Infinite and Eternal Cause,” is symbolized. When symbolizing it thus in our dualistic thought, we are asked to note that (p. 15): “Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis of conditioned Being whether subjective or objective.” This is exactly how the Sāṃkhya ideas of the purāṇas differ from those of the Sāṃkhya philosophical system as it is now known. Rather than taking puruṣa and prakṛti as two distinct ultimate principles, the purāṇas unite them in the absolute brahman. As Fitzedward Hall observed long ago: “And still different are the Puranas, in which the dualistic principles are united in Brahma, and—as previously remarked—are not evolutions therefrom, but so many aspects of some supreme deity” (The Vishnu Purana, trans. H. H. Wilson, vol. 1, 1864, p. 22 fn.). The next seven lines of the creation or emanation account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā in fact equate the unmanifest cause found in the first two lines, there called primary substance (pradhāna) and substance (prakṛti), with the highest (para) brahman. Here are all nine lines as found in the Vāyu (4.17-21 or 4.18-22) and Brahmāṇḍa (220.127.116.11-12) purāṇas:
avyaktaṃ kāraṇaṃ yat tu nityaṃ sad-asad-ātmakam |
pradhānaṃ prakṛtiṃ caiva yam āhus tattva-cintakāḥ || 4.17 ||
gandha-varṇa-rasair hīnaṃ śabda-sparśa-vivarjitam |
ajātaṃ dhruvam akṣayyaṃ nityaṃ svātmany avasthitam || 4.18 ||
jagad-yoniṃ mahad-bhūtaṃ paraṃ brahma sanātanam |
vigrahaṃ sarva-bhūtānām avyaktam abhavat kila || 4.19 ||
anādy-antam ajaṃ sūkṣmaṃ tri-guṇaṃ prabhavāpyayam |
asāmpratam avijñeyaṃ brahmāgre samavarttata || 4.20 ||
tasyātmanā sarvam idaṃ vyāptam āsīt tamomayam |
4.17. The unmanifest (avyakta) is the cause, eternal, and of the nature of existence and non-existence. Those who contemplate the principles of reality call it primary substance (pradhāna) and substance (prakṛti).
4.18. It is without smell, color, or taste, devoid of sound or touch, unborn, constant, imperishable, and always remaining in itself.
4.19. The unmanifest was assuredly the womb of the world, the great element (or great being), the everlasting highest (para) brahman, the embodiment of all beings.
4.20. In the beginning there was brahman, without beginning or end, unborn, subtle, having the three qualities (guṇa), the origin and cessation [of the cosmos], timeless, and unknowable.
4.21ab. All this [universe], consisting of darkness, was pervaded by its [brahman’s] self (ātman).
The last line immediately reminds us of verse 5 of stanza I of the “Book of Dzyan”: “Darkness alone filled the boundless all, . . .” With “darkness” we have an obvious terminological parallel; with brahman in verses 19 and 20 we have a less obvious but philosophically profound parallel. In this account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, the absolute, the highest (para) brahman, is clearly and unambiguously equated with primary substance (pradhāna) and substance (prakṛti). We do not see this in other Hindu texts, and it became modified in a number of the purāṇas. We recall the rather startling statement by the Mahatma K.H. in Mahatma letter #10, “we believe in matter alone.” This, too, it seems, was hard to accept, and it became displaced in Theosophical writings by more familiar teachings. Yet, that this was the actual teaching of the Theosophical Mahatmas was understood by their highly regarded chela, T. Subba Row.
As we saw in the comparison of the Book of Dzyan with the Mokṣopāya, Subba Row wrote: “The Arhat Cosmogony accounts for the evolution of the manifested solar system from undifferentiated Cosmic matter, . . .” He was distinguishing this from the much more well-known teachings of Advaita Vedānta. He continued: “. . . and Adwaitee Cosmogony accounts for the evolution of Bahipragna from the original Chinmatra.” Here, the absolute brahman is equated with pure consciousness (cin-mātra). For Subba Row, the two systems are complementary, and “The eternal Principle is precisely the same in both the systems.”
In standard Advaita Vedānta, however, unlike in Subba Row’s esoteric version of it, primary substance (pradhāna) was demoted to the status of illusion (māyā). This occurred when the Śaṅkarācārya who lived around the eighth century C.E. wrote the now extant Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya, in which he refuted the then prevalent Sāṃkhya teaching that equated brahman with primary substance (pradhāna). He defeated the Sāṃkhya school so thoroughly that it died out as an independently existing philosophical school. Where Sāṃkhya teachings are found, they are now interpreted to mean that their eternal puruṣa, “spirit,” is equivalent to brahman, and hence is above primary substance (pradhāna). The two are no longer taken as equal and eternal twin principles, as the Sāṃkhya school of philosophy had taught. This Śaṅkarācārya also equated brahman with God (īśvara), and this idea soon became the dominant one.
The same thing happened with the purāṇas, too, as they were revised over the centuries. The creation or emanation account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā equated the highest (para) brahman with primary substance (pradhāna), as had the so-called Arhat system of the Theosophical Mahatmas. The “great” principle (mahat) arose from it, and the world arose from the “great” principle. So the “great” principle (mahat), as the purāṇa account says, is also known by many other names, including Brahmā, the creator god (not to be confused with the absolute brahman), and God (īśvara). But as the idea of God (īśvara) came into prominence, and the idea of an ultimate primary substance (pradhāna) fell into disfavor, the original account of creation or emanation was reversed in some of the purāṇas. Some of the purāṇas now have God (īśvara or maheśvara) creating primary substance (pradhāna), rather than arising from primary substance. This is despite the fact that primary substance is described as being eternal, so could never be created. The attempt to trace the cosmogony account from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā through its changes in the now extant purāṇas is interesting, but that is another story for another day.
4.17a. The words avyaktaṃ kāraṇaṃ are often translated as the “unmanifest cause,” where avyaktaṃ, “unmanifest,” is taken as an adjective. I have taken avyaktaṃ as a noun, “the unmanifest,” on the basis of its usage as a Sāṃkhya technical term meaning pradhāna or prakṛti, and on the basis of parallels in the Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa 45.32ab (pradhānaṃ kāraṇaṃ yat tad avyaktākhyaṃ maharṣayaḥ), where primary substance, the cause, is called (ākhyaṃ) the unmanifest, and in the Liṅga-purāṇa 1.70.3ab (avyaktaṃ ceśvarāt tasmād abhavat kāraṇaṃ param), where the unmanifest was (abhavat) the highest cause.
By David Reigle on August 29, 2012 at 10:51 pm
Thanks once again to the efforts of Dr. N. C. Ramanujachary, we now have the data from the 1879-1880 Tiru Ganita Panchanga. This allows us to correct two typographical errors in the data given from the 1880-1881 issue (16645009981 for 1664500981, and 1972948980 for 1972948981), which in turn allowed us to correct a typographical error in the data given from the 1884-1885 issue (1955884687 for 1955884987) as copied by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine. All this data from three different issues enables us to eliminate the typographical error factor: the eighteen million years figure is not a mistake. Moreover, since this figure increases rather than decreases, it must in fact be the elapsed years of the Vaivasvata manvantara as stated, rather than the years remaining of the Vaivasvata manvantara lacking one digit, as can be calculated from the extant Sūrya-siddhānta. Since the eighteen million years figure cannot be derived in any known manner from the data given in the extant Sūrya-siddhānta, we are left with only one conclusion. The compiler of the Tiru Ganita Panchanga used a manuscript of the Sūrya-siddhānta that had additional verses in chapter one giving the data necessary to make this calculation.
At the time the Tiru Ganita Panchanga was first published, 1869-1870, there was only one printed edition of the Sūrya-siddhānta. It was published in 1859 in Calcutta (see May 15 posting), far from Madras. Astronomers in India then routinely used their own manuscript copies of texts such as the Sūrya-siddhānta. We must therefore assume that a fuller manuscript of the Sūrya-siddhānta exists in south India. Perhaps it still remains with the descendants of the compiler of the Tiru Ganita Panchanga.
Here is the data from the 1879-1880 Tiru Ganita Panchanga, kindly supplied by Dr. Ramanujachary in his email reply to me dated Aug. 29, 2012:
I had occasion to visit the Adyar Library on this errand today.
Obtained a copy of the first page giving figures.
Yes, your two corrections of years are validated.
The translated version of the page is as below:
Almanac for the year PRAMADI,
corresponding to Kaliyuga year 4981; and English year 1879-80
The figures are in accordance with SURYASIDDHANTA.
years that passed in Brahmanah kalpa: 1972948980
years that passed after Srishti(Manifestation); 1955884980
years that passed after SWAYAMBHAVU: 1664500980
years that pased in VAIVASWATA : 18618720
Kali age: 4981
Vikrama Satabda: 1937
Drik Ganita year: 11
By David Reigle on August 14, 2012 at 3:27 am
Part 1. On the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā
The first place that one would look when seeking knowledge of cosmogony from Indian sources is the purāṇas. The purāṇas are traditionally supposed to teach five subjects, the first of which is creation or emanation (sarga). There are reckoned to be eighteen major purāṇas in the Hindu tradition, and some extend over multiple volumes. These sourcebooks of India’s creation stories are among the texts said by H. P. Blavatsky to be derived from the “Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World” that the “Book of Dzyan” is a secret commentary on: “the Purāṇas in India . . . are all derived from that one small parent volume” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. xliii). In fact, there is a tradition given in the purāṇas themselves that they come from a single now lost source. This source is described as the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. It consisted of 4,000 verses, less than in any of the eighteen purāṇas now extant, but not a small book. It would therefore have been an intermediate stage in the derivation “from that one small parent volume” described by Blavatsky, like the “Book of Dzyan” is also said to be.
The idea that all the purāṇas come from a single now lost source, an original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, was also arrived at by Western scholars, independently of Indian tradition. Ludo Rocher writes in his 1986 book, The Purāṇas (part of the series, A History of Indian Literature), p. 45: “The Western concept of a single, original purāṇa, from which all existing purāṇas ultimately derive their origin, resulted from a strict application of the rules of textual criticism, which were the backbone of European, especially German, classical philology. Scholars extended to purāṇas the same rules and principles they would have applied had they been editing Greek or Latin texts. Others, however, came to the same conclusion via a totally different route: the Indian tradition itself suggests that originally there was but one purāṇa.”
This one purāṇa is claimed by the purāṇas to be older than the vedas: “First, of all the scriptures the purāṇa was remembered by Brahmā; and afterwards, the vedas issued forth from his mouths” (Vāyu-purāṇa 1.1.54, Matsya-purāṇa 53.3, etc.). The Secret Doctrine also claims that its teachings are older than the Vedas: “For in the twentieth century of our era scholars will begin to recognize that the Secret Doctrine has neither been invented nor exaggerated, but, on the contrary, simply outlined; and finally, that its teachings antedate the Vedas” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. xxxvii).
It would seem that the purāṇas follow what was described by Blavatsky as the “Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World” much more closely than do the other texts that are said to be derived from it. Blavatsky goes on to say there (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. xliii): “The old book, having described Cosmic Evolution and explained the origin of everything on earth, including physical man, after giving the true history of the races from the First down to the Fifth (our) race, goes no further. It stops short at the beginning of the Kali Yuga just 4989 years ago at the death of Krishna, . . .” Likewise, the purāṇas end their accounts, purporting to give history, at the beginning of the current kali-yuga. Blavatsky continues: “But there exists another book. None of its possessors regard it as very ancient, as it was born with, and is only as old as the Black Age, namely, about 5,000 years. In about nine years hence, the first cycle of the first five millenniums, that began with the great cycle of the Kali-Yuga, will end. And then the last prophecy contained in that book (the first volume of the prophetic record for the Black Age) will be accomplished.” Similarly, in seven of the purāṇas there is an added supplement on the dynasties of the kali-yuga, put in the form of prophecies. This account was carefully edited in Sanskrit by F. E. Pargiter and translated into English in his 1913 book, The Purāṇa Text of the Dynasties of the Kali Age.
Unlike the vedas, which had to be preserved unchanged, the purāṇas were expected to evolve and expand and be augmented (upabṛṃhaṇa) with new material. The five subjects that a purāṇa is traditionally supposed to teach are: (1) sarga, creation or emanation; (2) pratisarga, dissolution and re-creation; (3) vaṃśa, lineage or race, the genealogies or dynasties of kings, sages, and gods; (4) manvantara, the time period of a manu or humanity; (5) vaṃśānucarita, accounts of the individual kings, sages, and gods that comprise the genealogical listings. However, some of the purāṇas as we now have them include very little of these five subjects, and instead consist almost entirely of stories, praises of gods and goddesses, instructions for worship, descriptions or glorifications of sacred places, and various other subjects. As new material was added and old material was left out, the purāṇas evolved until in some cases there was almost nothing left in them of the one original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. How far is it possible to recover the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā from the extant purāṇas, we must wonder.
Pargiter’s in-depth work on the dynasties of the kali-yuga, the first ever critical edition of a purāṇa text, brought out some important facts. He established his text on the basis of the several printed editions then available plus sixty-three manuscripts. Of the seven purāṇas that have this account, he noted (op. cit., p. vi): “The versions of the Matsya, Vāyu, and Brahmānda present a remarkable similarity.” The Viṣṇu and Bhāgavata are condensations of this account, and the Garuḍa is a further condensation. The Bhaviṣya as we now have it “shows all the ancient matter utterly corrupted” (p. xxviii), even though the original Bhaviṣya is the source from which the Matsya, Vāyu, and Brahmāṇḍa say they took their account. Pargiter also found that (p. x): “There are clear indications that the Sanskrit account as it exists in the Matsya, Vāyu, and Brahmāṇḍa was originally in Prakrit, or, more accurately, that it is a Sanskritized version of older Prakrit ślokas. . . . The above conclusion holds good for the whole of the text of the Matsya, Vāyu, and Brahmānda; their verses are older Prakrit ślokas Sanskritized. It also holds good for such portions of the Viṣṇu and Bhāgavata as have preserved the old verses; but the main portions of these two Purāṇas are condensed redactions composed directly in Sanskrit.” So according to this, the Matsya, Vāyu, and Brahmāṇḍa are the oldest of the extant purāṇas.
Meanwhile, in 1910 S. P. L. Narasimhaswami had begun a comparative study of the purāṇas that would eventually lead to his reconstruction of the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā in 4,000 verses, unfortunately never published. He independently also concluded that the Matsya, Vāyu, and Brahmāṇḍa are the oldest of the extant purāṇas, and added to these the Harivaṃśa, a purāṇa-like supplement to the Mahābhārata. In his article, “Purana Samhita” (Journal of Sri Venkatesvara Oriental Institute, Tirupati, vol. 6, 1945, pp. 54-71, attached), he writes (p. 59): “Keeping these facts in mind, I began to examine the ślokas which were repeated in different Purāṇas. Staunch sectarian Purāṇas, like Padma, Kūrma, Liṅga, etc. do not contain these stanzas. Those like Vishṇu, Mārkaṇḍeya, etc. contain very few of them. Matsya and Harivaṃśa (although the latter is not a Purāṇa) contain hundreds of stanzas in common with Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa, while these last Purāṇas have thousands of stanzas in common though they are not in a continuous line.” After preparing a parallel text of the account of the Yādava dynasty in the Brahmāṇḍa, Vāyu, Matsya, and Harivaṃśa, he concluded: “When I made sufficient progress in the formation of the parallel text, I was convinced that the common portion was the Purāṇa-saṃhitā.”
Of these texts, we see that the Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa purāṇas have thousands of these old verses in common. As now extant, the Vāyu Purāṇa has 10,714 verses in the Bibliotheca Indica edition, or 10,991 verses in the Ānandāśrama edition, while the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa has 14,286 verses in the Veṅkaṭeśvara edition (the only one published). According to Narasimhaswami (ibid.), they have 7,557 verses in common, and there are two lacunae in the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa that would add 826 verses to this. So the total of 8,383 verses would have to be reduced by about half to get to the 4,000 verse extent of the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. Because the extant Vāyu Purāṇa is shorter than the extant Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, most researchers regard the Vāyu Purāṇa as being the oldest purāṇa we have, and the closest to the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā.
S. P. L. Narasimhaswami concluded that the Vāyu Purāṇa is the oldest purāṇa in another statement, naming additional purāṇas, in his only other published article that I know of, “Aikṣvāku Dynasty” (Bhāratīya Vidyā, vol. 4, 1943, pp. 217-220, attached), where he writes (p. 219): “In the light of the Purāṇa-saṃhitā, the value of the different Purāṇas has to be assessed differently. Some Purāṇas, like the Agni, the Garuḍa, the Bhaviṣya and the Brahmavaivarta, have no historical matter in them and are only Purāṇas in name. . . . Others like the Viṣṇu, the Bhāgavata, the Mārkaṇḍeya, and the Vāmana are cognizant of the Saṃhitā and incorporate it partly in them. The rest which are very old, like the Vāyu, the Brahmāṇḍa, and the Matsya contain the Saṃhitā in them, either wholly or partially. It is these Purāṇas that helped me in the task of recovering the Saṃhitā. Of these the Vāyu-purāṇa is the oldest and most valuable.”
Despite regarding the account of the dynasties of the kali-yuga found in the Matsya Purāṇa as slightly older in his 1913 book (p. xiv), F. E. Pargiter had come to the conclusion that the Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa were the oldest purāṇas we have in his 1922 book, Ancient Indian Historical Tradition (p. 78): “These two appear to be the oldest of the Puranas that we possess now, and are on the whole the most valuable in all matters of traditional history.” He had then come to regard them as originally one purāṇa (p. 77): “The Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa have the best text of the genealogies. Their accounts agree closely, so that they are really only two versions of the same text. They have a great part of their contents in common, generally almost verbatim, and it appears they were originally one Purana.” That they were originally one, incidentally, is also the conclusion that I had reached before seeing his book, and for the very same reason that he there gives (pp. 77-78). This is as follows:
The lists of the eighteen purāṇas given in the majority of the purāṇas omit the Vāyu Purāṇa. In a minority of the lists, the Vāyu Purāṇa is given in place of the Śiva Purāṇa. But both of these are major purāṇas, and we cannot have nineteen. Pargiter notes that only two of the lists have both the Vāyu and the Brahmāṇḍa, and one of these two lists is from the Vāyu itself as we now have it (the other is from the Garuḍa). The obvious implication is that the Vāyu was not separate from the Brahmāṇḍa until quite late. They are the same purāṇa. The majority of the lists, which omit the Vāyu, are correct, since the Vāyu is there as the Brahmāṇḍa.
To demonstrate that the two are one, the close parallel contents of the extant Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa purāṇas were laid out in detail in a chart prepared by Willibald Kirfel. He did this at the beginning of his introduction to his major 1927 study, Das Purāṇa Pañcalakṣaṇa. In this 598-page book, Kirfel gathered together from the various purāṇas all the passages on the five subjects that a purāṇa is traditionally supposed to teach, the purāṇa-pañca-lakṣaṇa, the “five defining characteristics of a purāṇa.” So the book is entirely in Sanskrit. It is prefaced by a 40-page introduction in German. Kirfel’s German introduction was translated into English by P. V. Ramanujasvami, at the request of his brother, S. P. L. Narasimhaswami, and published in Journal of Sri Venkatesvara Oriental Institute, Tirupati, vol. 7, 1946, pp. 81-101; vol. 8, 1947, pp. 9-33 (attached as Purāṇa Pañcalakṣaṇa Introduction). Ludo Rocher notes that this translation “should be used with extreme caution” (The Purāṇas, p. 44, fn. 12). Nonetheless, it affords us some access to Kirfel’s German in English. About the Brahmāṇḍa and Vāyu purāṇas, Kirfel writes (English translation, p. 83): “The first result of the Purāṇic text-comparison is the perception that the Bḍ. [Brahmāṇḍa] and Vā. [Vāyu] must have originally formed a single Purāṇa.”
However, Kirfel did not regard the Brahmāṇḍa/Vāyu Purāṇa as the oldest, as did Pargiter and Narasimhaswami. Kirfel’s approach was to gather together the passages from the various purāṇas on each of the five subjects of a purāṇa (although he took the first two closely related subjects together, sarga and pratisarga, creation and dissolution), then to place them into text groups having matching accounts, and lastly to arrange these text groups as much as possible into what he regarded as their chronological order. Thus, on the subject of creation or emanation and dissolution followed by re-creation, his first text group consists of the Brahma Purāṇa, the Harivaṃśa, and the Śiva Purāṇa, with partial support from the Agni Purāṇa. His second text group was divided into two sub-groups. Group 2A consists of the Padma Purāṇa and the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, with a little support from the Garuḍa Purāṇa. Group 2B consists of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, the Vāyu Purāṇa, the Kūrma Purāṇa, the Liṅga Purāṇa, and the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa. His third text group consists solely of the Matsya Purāṇa. (He did not use the Nārada, Brahma-vaivarta, Skanda, or Vāmana purāṇas in his book, and for this subject he did not find or give anything from the Bhāgavata, Bhaviṣya, or Varāha purāṇas.) As may be seen from this, he regarded the account of creation and dissolution from the four purāṇas in the first text group to be older than that from the Brahmāṇḍa/Vāyu Purāṇa, found in his text group 2B.
Part of Kirfel’s reasoning for this is that the account from the first text group is much briefer, and hence presumably less expanded. By contrast, on the subject of the dynasties of the kali-yuga, Pargiter saw the briefer accounts in the Viṣṇu, Bhāgavata, and Garuḍa purāṇas as condensations of the accounts in the Vāyu, Brahmāṇḍa, and Matsya purāṇas. Kirfel also used the criterion of whether the accounts contained Sāṃkhya ideas. This is based on the assumption that Sāṃkhya philosophy is a later development, and thus was added to the purāṇas later. By contrast, Indian tradition regards Sāṃkhya as the oldest philosophy, so that it would naturally be in the purāṇas from early on. Narasimhaswami disregarded both of these criteria used by Kirfel, and focused instead on parallel old verses. Kirfel perceived the hand of a reviser in the Brahmāṇḍa/Vāyu verses by comparing similar material from other purāṇas. But how do we know which direction this revising went in? What was convincing evidence to Kirfel was not convincing to others. Of course, the usefulness of Kirfel’s book is not dependent on accepting his chronological views. The value of his compilation for comparing the accounts of the various purāṇas on the five subjects is very great indeed. He concluded (English translation, pp. 28-29): “Apart from the abridgement in A. [Agni] and Ga. [Garuḍa] as well as the prose paraphrase of Vi. [Viṣṇu], we find in the Purāṇas only three complete compositions of this text [the pañca-lakṣaṇa], namely that of the Br. [Brahma] and H. [Harivaṃśa], that of the Bḍ.-Vā. [Brahmāṇḍa-Vāyu] and that of the Mt. [Matsya]; all others contain only smaller or greater parts of the same.” He, too, was trying to ascertain the contents of an original or “Ur-purāṇa.”
The “Original Purāṇa Saṃhitā,” by V. S. Agrawala (Purāṇa, vol. 8, 1966, pp. 232-245, attached), summarizes the information we have on this, and accepts the extant Vāyu Purāṇa as the oldest and closest to the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. As we have seen, the extant Vāyu Purāṇa has about 11,000 verses, while the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā is reported to have had 4,000 verses. So Agrawala here (pp. 242-244) provides a listing of what portions of the extant Vāyu Purāṇa making up about 7,000 verses should be discarded, and what portions making up about 4,000 verses should be retained as constituting the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. This may be compared to Narasimhaswami’s detailed listing of what chapters, and how many verses in each, made up the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā that he reconstructed (“Purana Samhita,” pp. 63-69). While Narasimhaswami and Pargiter were interested in recovering history from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, Agrawala was interested in recovering the ancient knowledge called Purāṇa-Vidyā.
In the Preface to his 1963 book, Matsya Purāṇa—A Study (An Exposition of the Ancient Purāṇa-Vidyā), Agrawala explains (p. ix): “Purāṇa-Vidyā—The point of view which has inspired the present study of the Matsya Purāṇa is an investigation not of chronology or of canons of authorship but of the real secrets of what once was known as the Purāṇa-Vidyā. Like other Vidyās as Vyākaraṇa [grammar], Jyotisha [astronomy/astrology], Nirukta [etymology] etc., Purāṇa also was a subject of intensive purposive study in which serious teachers and pupils were engaged. What that purpose was is often stated in the Purāṇas themselves. The objective was to present, amplify and preserve the meaning of the Vedic Sṛishṭi-Vidyā or the science of cosmogony.” The ancient Purāṇa-Vidyā is apparently the key that Blavatsky refers to in this statement from The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 423): “But there was a time when the Puranas were esoteric works, and so they are still for the Initiates who can read them with the key that is in their possession.”
Pargiter had found that, for the account of the dynasties of the kali-yuga he edited, the verses from the Matsya, Vāyu, and Brahmāṇḍa purāṇas were originally in Prakrit, being Sanskritized versions of older Prakrit ślokas. At that time, the so-called “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” had not yet been identified or studied. In Buddhist texts, old verses are found that use Prakrit-type words and inflections, words and inflections that could not be changed into classical Sanskrit without spoiling the meter. Even a few old prose texts were found written in this dialect, dubbed “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” by Franklin Edgerton, who published a grammar and dictionary of it in 1953. We can now see that these old purāṇa verses in Sanskritized Prakrit are like the “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” verses in Buddhist texts, where the process of changing them into classical Sanskrit is more visible. While it is possible to regard these old verses as going back to a vernacular Prakrit form of these early writings, it is also possible to regard them as remnants of an older pre-classical form of sacred Sanskrit, closer to the esoteric Senzar. Senzar is the name given to the language of “that one small parent volume” from which the purāṇas are said to be derived.
In summary, Indian tradition speaks of an original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, no longer available, that is the source of the eighteen purāṇas now known. The idea that the purāṇas come from a single now lost source was arrived at independently by Western scholars through their own researches. The idea that the purāṇas come from a single now lost source was also stated by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, and this source is the book that the “Book of Dzyan” is a commentary on. This source is said to describe cosmic evolution up to the beginning of the present kali-yuga. The purāṇas also describe cosmic evolution and end with the beginning of the present kali-yuga. The Secret Doctrine speaks of another book that gives the prophecies of the kali-yuga. Seven of the purāṇas also have a supplement that gives in the form of prophecies an account of the dynasties of the kali-yuga. The original Purāṇa-saṃhitā is said to consist of 4,000 verses. This would be an intermediate text between the “one small parent volume” and the eighteen known purāṇas. Attempts to recover the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā indicate that many, if not most, of its 4,000 verses may be found in the extant Vāyu Purāṇa and its twin Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, supplemented by the Matsya Purāṇa and the Harivaṃśa. Research showed that these verses were Sanskritized from an earlier language, a language that may have been intermediate between Senzar and classical Sanskrit. Attempts have also been made to recover the ancient knowledge called Purāṇa-Vidyā, which would provide the key to the meaning of the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā.
By David Reigle on August 4, 2012 at 3:04 am
As can easily be seen from the sources mentioned in the May 15 posting on the Sūrya-siddhānta, the information on yugas, manvantaras, and kalpas in the Sūrya-siddhānta is found in chapter 1, verses 15-24, and 45-47 (or 44-46 in the Sanskrit edition with the commentary by Parameśvara). There are adequate English translations, by Rev. Ebenezer Burgess (1860), by Bāpū Deva Śāstrī (1861), and by Bimalā Prasāda Siddhānta Sarasvatī (from Sanskrit to Bengali,1894 or 1896, and from Bengali to English, 2007). Nonetheless, these verses are here given in Sanskrit and English translation, primarily for convenience of reference. Unless the compiler of the Tiru Ganita Panchanga had access to a more complete manuscript of the Sūrya-siddhānta, this is the data on which the figures for the elapsed years of various epochs given at its beginning would have been based.
The Sanskrit text given here is based primarily on the 1957 edition of the Sūryasiddhānta by Kripa Shankar Shukla with the Sanskrit commentary by Parameśvara (1432 C.E.), in comparison with the 1859 edition by Fitzedward Hall with the Sanskrit commentary by Raṅganātha (1603 C.E.). I have also compared the 1871, 1891, and 1911 editions, and the 1991 edition by Śrīcandra Pāṇḍeya with the Sanskrit commentary by Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa (born 1618 C.E.). Shukla’s edition gives in footnotes variant readings from the text as found with the Sanskrit commentaries by Mallikārjuna Sūri (1178 C.E.), Yallaya (1472 C.E.), and Rāmakṛṣṇa Ārādhya (1472 C.E.). Shukla also consulted the commentaries by Bhūdhara (1572 C.E.) and Tamma Yajvā (1599 C.E.) for questionable readings. The fact that all these major commentaries were used by Shukla for his edition does not leave a very high probability that a more complete manuscript, having additional verses here, was available to the compiler of the Tiru Ganita Panchanga.
When putting the Sanskrit into roman script I have divided the words with spaces and hyphens as much as possible. Also I have made my English translation fairly literal, so that the Sanskrit can more easily be followed. There seems to be no possibility of deriving a figure of eighteen million years for the age of the Vaivasvata manvantara from this data, and this is all that can be found on this topic in the extant Sūrya-siddhānta.
Sūrya-siddhānta, chapter 1
tad-dvādaśa-sahasrāṇi catur-yugam udāhṛtam |
sūryābda-saṅkhyayā dvi-tri-sāgarair ayutāhataiḥ || 15 ||
sandhyā-sandhyāṃśa-sahitaṃ vijñeyaṃ tac catur-yugam |
kṛtādīnāṃ vyavastheyaṃ dharma-pāda-vyavasthayā || 16 ||
15-16. Twelve thousand of those [divine years, divyaṃ varṣam] are called a fourfold yuga (age). By the count of solar years, that fourfold yuga together with its [opening] sandhi period and [closing] sandhi period is to be understood as four hundred and thirty-two multiplied by ten thousand [i.e., 4,320,000]. This fixed limit of the kṛta and other [yugas] is by way of the fixed limit of the legs of dharma (righteousness).
Notes: fourfold yuga, consisting of the kṛta, tretā, dvāpara and kali yugas; sandhi or sandhyā = “junction, interval, twilight”; four hundred and thirty-two, dvi-tri-sāgara = “two three ocean,” where ocean is a word-number standing for “four,” and the whole number is to be read backwards.
yugasya daśamo bhāgaś catus-tri-dvy-eka-saṅguṇaḥ |
kramāt kṛta-yugādīnāṃ ṣaṣṭho ’ṃśaḥ sandhyayoḥ svakaḥ || 17 ||
17. The tenth part of a yuga [i.e., 432,000] multiplied by four, three, two, and one in sequence [is the length] of the kṛta and other yugas. Their own sixth part [is the length] of the two sandhi periods [combined].
yugānāṃ saptatiḥ saikā manvantaram ihocyate |
kṛtābda-saṅkhyā tasyānte sandhiḥ prokto jala-plavaḥ || 18 ||
18. Seventy plus one yugas are here called a manvantara. At the end of it is said to be a sandhi period having the number of years of a kṛta [yuga]. It is an inundation by water.
sa-sandhayas te manavaḥ kalpe jñeyāś caturdaśa |
kṛta-pramāṇaḥ kalpādau sandhiḥ pañcadaśaḥ smṛtaḥ || 19 ||
19. Those manus together with the sandhi periods are to be understood to be fourteen in a kalpa (eon). At the beginning of a kalpa is recollected to be a fifteenth sandhi period having the measure of a kṛta [yuga].
itthaṃ yuga-sahasreṇa bhūta-saṃhāra-kārakaḥ |
kalpo brāhmam ahaḥ proktaṃ śarvarī tasya tāvatī || 20 ||
20. Thus a kalpa, with a thousand yugas, bringing about the destruction of beings, is said to be a day of Brahmā. His night is of the same extent.
param āyuḥ śataṃ tasya tayāhorātra-saṅkhyayā |
āyuṣo ’rdham itaṃ tasya śeṣāt kalpo ’yam ādimaḥ || 21 ||
21. His complete life is a hundred [divine years] by this count of days and nights. Half of his life has passed. Of the remainder, this is the first kalpa.
Note: the reading śeṣāt kalpo, found in the edition with the commentary by Parameśvara (and read in the three other commentaries cited in the footnotes), is preferable to the reading śeṣa-kalpo, found in the editions with the commentary by Raṅganātha.
kalpād asmāc ca manavaḥ ṣaḍ vyatītāḥ sa-sandhayaḥ |
vaivasvatasya ca manor yugānāṃ tri-ghano gataḥ || 22 ||
22. Of this kalpa six manus have passed with their sandhi periods. Of the Vaivasvata manu, three cubed [i.e., 27] yugas have passed.
aṣṭāviṃsād yugād asmād yātam etat kṛtaṃ yugam |
ataḥ kālaṃ prasaṅkhyāya saṅkhyām ekatra piṇḍayet || 23 ||
23. Of this twenty-eighth yuga, this kṛta yuga has passed. For calculating time after this, one should combine into one the number.
graha-rkṣa-deva-daityādi sṛjato ’sya carācaram |
kṛtādri-vedā divyābdāḥ śata-ghnā vedhaso gatāḥ || 24 ||
24. Four hundred and seventy-four times one hundred divine years passed of the creator [Brahmā], he creating the moving and the unmoving, i.e., planets, stars, gods, demons, etc. [at the beginning of the kalpa].
Note: four hundred and seventy-four, kṛta-adri-veda, word-numbers for four (kṛta, the four dots on a winning dice, also the kṛta yuga where dharma stands on all four legs), seven (adri, mountain, the seven mountains), and four (veda, the four vedas). Then the whole number is to be read backwards, although with this particular number it would not matter.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ṣaṇ-manūnāṃ tu sampīḍya kālaṃ tat-sandhibhiḥ saha |
kalpādi-sandhinā sārdhaṃ vaivasvata-manos tathā || 45 ||
yugānāṃ tri-ghanaṃ yātaṃ tathā kṛta-yugaṃ tv idam |
projjhya sṛṣṭes tataḥ kālaṃ pūrvoktaṃ divya-saṅkhyayā || 46 ||
sūryābda-saṅkhyayā jñeyāḥ kṛtasyānte gatā amī |
kha-catuṣka-yamādry-agni-śara-randhra-niśākarāḥ || 47 ||
45-47. Having combined the time of the six [past] manus together with their sandhi periods, along with the sandhi period at the beginning of the kalpa, also of the Vaivasvata manu the passed three cubed [i.e., 27] yugas, plus this kṛta yuga; having subtracted from that the time of creation previously stated by the count of divine [years]; the passed [years] at the end of the kṛta [yuga] by the count of solar years are to be understood as these: four skies, twins, mountain, fire, arrow, bodily openings, moon [i.e., 1,953,720,000].
Notes: kha-catuṣka, a group of four skies, where sky or space equals 0, so 0000; yama, twins, 2; adri, mountain (the seven mountains), so 7; agni, fire (the three fires), so 3; śara, arrow (the five arrows), so 5; randhra, opening (the nine apertures of the body), so 9; niśākara, “night-maker,” the moon, so 1. Then all these digits must be read backwards, yielding 1,953,720,000. As the word-number nine, the reading randhra is superior to the reading nanda, found only in the edition with the commentary by Parameśvara (based on a transcript of a single manuscript from the Adyar Library). The other commentaries cited in the footnotes read randhra. The nine Nanda brother-kings in Indian history come far later than the age of the Sūrya-siddhānta is supposed to be. The variant sampiṇḍya for sampīḍya in 45a, being synonyms, and the preceding ca for tu, make little difference.
By David Reigle on July 29, 2012 at 6:09 am
When introducing Stanza II of the anthropogenesis portion of the “Book of Dzyan,” given in volume 2 of The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky informs us that the commentary thereon refers to Nārada and Asura Maya (p. 47):
“Stanza II., which speaks of this Round, begins with a few words of information concerning the age of our Earth. The chronology will be given in its place. In the Commentary appended to the Stanza, two personages are mentioned: Narada and Asura Maya, especially the latter. All the calculations are attributed to this archaic celebrity; and what follows will make the reader superficially acquainted with some of these figures.”
Blavatsky then gives a section titled, “Two Antediluvian Astronomers” (pp. 47-51), which begins with this paragraph:
“To the mind of the Eastern student of Occultism, two figures are indissolubly connected with mystic astronomy, chronology, and their cycles. Two grand and mysterious figures, towering like two giants in the Archaic Past, emerge before him, whenever he has to refer to Yugas and Kalpas. When, at what period of pre-history they lived, none save a few men in the world know, or ever can know with that certainty which is required by exact chronology. It may have been 100,000 years ago, it may have been 1,000,000, for all that the outside world will ever know. The mystic West and Freemasonry talk loudly of Enoch and Hermes. The mystic East speaks of Narada, the old Vedic Rishi, and of Asuramaya, the Atlantean.”
The asura named Maya is indeed a famous astronomer, writer of the most authoritative Sanskrit text on astronomy, the Sūrya-siddhānta. Nārada is certainly a well-known rishi in Indian tradition, and astronomy is in fact one of the subjects that he is said to have mastered, but he is primarily known for his mastery of music. There is no Sanskrit astronomical treatise in use that is attributed to him, and the classical Indian astronomers do not refer to or quote him. In Blavatsky’s statement, “To the mind of the Eastern student of Occultism,” we have to emphasize the words, “of Occultism”; and in her statement, “The mystic East speaks of Narada,” we have to emphasize the word “mystic.” To the mind of the Eastern student in general, Nārada is the divine musician; and the East in general speaks of Nārada the musician, not Nārada the astronomer. Yet, for Blavatsky and her contacts, Nārada was the great astronomer Nārada. We must inquire why this would be so.
As just seen, the secret commentary on the “Book of Dzyan” is reported to refer to the astronomers Nārada and asura Maya. Then, in the section titled, “The Chronology of the Brahmins” (pp. 66-74), figures are given including the age of humanity as 18,618,728 years (in 1887 C.E.), taken from the Tirukkanda Panchanga = Tiru Ganita Panchanga, based on the Sūrya-siddhānta. After giving these figures, Blavatsky writes (p. 70): “These sacred astronomical cycles are of immense antiquity, and most of them pertain, as stated, to the calculations of Nārada and Asuramaya.” So is there some astronomical text that we perhaps no longer have, but that is associated with Nārada, even mythologically?
Ebenezer Burgess, introducing his 1860 translation of the Sūrya-siddhānta, writes (p. 142):
“Among the different Siddhāntas, or text-books of astronomy, existing in India in the Sanskrit language, none appeared better suited to my purpose than the Sūrya-siddhānta. That it is one of the most highly esteemed, best known, and most frequently employed, of all, must be evident to any one who has noticed how much oftener than any other it is referred to as authority in the various papers on the Hindu astronomy. In fact, the science as practised in modern India is in the greater part founded upon its data and processes. In the lists of Siddhāntas given by native authorities it is almost invariably mentioned second, the Brahma-Siddhānta being placed first: the latter enjoys this preeminence, perhaps, mainly on account of its name; it is, at any rate, comparatively rare and little known.”
We see that, at least mythologically, there is a text that is regarded even more highly than the Sūrya-siddhānta, namely, the Brahma-siddhānta. But the genuine original Brahma-siddhānta is apparently no longer extant; otherwise it would surely be in wide use. Nonetheless, there is an extant text called the Brahma-siddhānta, and this tells us why Nārada would be so highly regarded as an astronomer: in it, the god Brahmā teaches astronomy to Nārada. So we may assume that in the original Brahma-siddhānta also, Nārada is the recipient of the knowledge of astronomy from Brahmā. This is like in the Sūrya-siddhānta, where the asura named Maya is the recipient of the knowledge of astronomy from an incarnation or part (aṃśa) of the sun.
The now extant text called Brahma-siddhānta calls itself the second praśna or section of the Śākalya-saṃhitā. There is no English translation of it. It was first published in 1912 in the Sanskrit collection titled, Jyautiṣa-siddhānta-saṃgraha, edited by Vindhyesvari Prasad Dvivedi, in the Benares Sanskrit Series, no. 39. The puzzle of why it calls itself the second praśna was not solved until several decades later. When D. G. Dhavale was preparing a critical edition of the Brahma-siddhānta, he saw that one of the eight manuscripts he had gathered contained many additional verses in its first chapter. These verses showed that the various praśnas or sections of the Śākalya-saṃhitā each summarized an astronomical siddhānta. The first section summarized the Sūrya-siddhānta, and the second section summarized the Brahma-siddhānta. Six more sections summarized the Pauliśa-siddhānta, the Soma-siddhānta, the Romaśa-siddhānta, the Gārgya-siddhānta, the Bṛhaspati-siddhānta, and the Vāsiṣṭha-siddhānta. Of these sections of the Śākalya-saṃhitā, only the summary of the Brahma-siddhānta is now extant. It provides our only window into this long lost text. It shows us that the original Brahma-siddhānta was taught by Brahmā to Nārada.
Even though the original text by Nārada is long lost to us, although perhaps not to the Theosophical Mahatmas (see SD 1.47-51), the tradition of the two great antediluvian astronomers remained known to astronomers in India. A verse from the seventeenth century C.E. Indian astronomer Kamalākara’s Siddhānta-tattva-viveka (verse 65 of the bhagaṇa-māna-adhyāya, chapter on elements of revolutions) is quoted by Sankar Balakrishna Dikshit in his Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra, English translation, vol. 2, p. 47, saying: “That pure (science of astronomy) which was revealed to Maya by the god Sun, was described to Nārada by Brahmā, to Śaunaka by Himaguru (Moon or Soma) and to Māṇḍavya by the sage Vasiṣṭha.”
As for the astronomical contents of the Brahma-siddhānta according to its summary in the Śākalya-saṃhitā, already in 1896 Sankar Balakrishna Dikshit had determined that this summarized version copies the modern Sūrya-siddhānta. He writes (Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra, English translation, vol. 2, p. 4): “The basic principles, propounded by the Śākalya Brahma Siddhānta, even it be more ancient than Brahmagupta, are exactly the same as those propounded by the modern Sūrya-siddhānta.” Again, he says (p. 49): “The number of revolutions and other elements in this tally entirely with those of the Sūrya-siddhānta in all respects and have already been given.” This was confirmed by D. G. Dhavale when preparing his Sanskrit critical edition, The Brahmasiddhānta of Śākalyasaṃhitā (Pune: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1996). He writes in his English Introduction (pp. xi-xii): “It is generally agreed that this Brahmasiddhānta is based on the modern Sūryasiddhānta. In order to compare the two siddhāntas I prepared a line index to the S.S. [Sūryasiddhānta] . . . On comparison it was found that agreement in actual wording of the two siddhāntas occurs in 65 lines or caraṇas. . . . The present Brh. [Brahmasiddhānta] closely follows the modern S.S. in date about the planetary motions etc.” It seems certain, then, that like the Sūrya-siddhānta, where we have only a modern revision of the original text, so the summary of the Brahma-siddhānta in the Śākalya-saṃhitā is only a modern revision.
Nonetheless, although this summary apparently does not preserve the original astronomical data of the original Brahma-siddhānta, Sankar Balakrishna Dikshit noticed that it was unique in a couple of ways. First, “the subject of religion also, which is never met with in an astronomical work, has been included in it” (op. cit., p. 49). Further on this, D. G. Dhavale found in the one manuscript that had additional verses in the first chapter, an entire additional chapter, a seventh adhyāya. It, too, apparently pertains to religion. He writes (op. cit., p. ix): “The contents of the seventh Adhyāya, however, do not justify its inclusion in a treatise on astronomy. In fact the chapter reads more like a Purāṇa than an astronomical essay. Whatever astronomical references there are in it are about the same as are found in some of the Purāṇas.” For this reason, he unfortunately did not include this otherwise unknown chapter in his edition, so we do not know exactly what is in it. There is an astrological text attributed to Nārada, the Nāradīya-saṃhitā, on divination and muhūrta. A Sanskrit edition of it was prepared by Haridāsagupta and published in 1905. Much of its contents are included in the Nārada-purāṇa, according to a comparison made by K. Damodara Nambiar (published in the journal, Purāṇa, Jan. 1974, pp. 103-112, and cited in Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare’s Introduction to his English translation of The Nārada-Purāṇa, Part 1, Delhi, 1980, p. 30). Perhaps some of this material in fact came from the original Brahma-siddhānta.
Second, the Brahma-siddhānta is also unique in that it gives otherwise unknown information about the seven stars of what we call the Great Bear or Big Dipper constellation, known as the Seven Rishis (saptarṣi). Sankar Balakrishna Dikshit writes (op. cit., p. 50): “It is the specialty of this work that it gives the latitudes and longitudes of the Saptarṣi group (i.e. Great Bear), which are not given by any other siddhānta.” There is a very unusual cycle associated with the Seven Rishis, taught by the ancient astronomer Vṛddha Garga in a now lost text (quoted by Bhaṭṭotpala in his commentary on Varāha-mihira’s Bṛhat-saṃhitā, chapter 13). These stars are supposed to move through one asterism or nakṣatra in exactly one hundred solar years. Of course, the fixed stars have no such physical motion. Nonetheless, the cycle is real, and has been in use in parts of India and Kashmir from ancient times, as seen in stone inscriptions, and right up to the present. It has been studied in detail by John E. Mitchiner in his 1982 book, Traditions of the Seven Ṛṣis. I have written a little about it and its relation to Theosophical teachings in my article, “The Centennial Cycle” (Theosophical History, vol. 11, no. 4, Oct. 2005, pp. 5-15; http://www.easterntradition.org/centennial%20cycle.pdf). According to David Pingree, Nārada is “one of the interlocutors in the Vṛddhagārgīsaṃhitā” (Census of the Exact Sciences in Sanskrit, Series A, vol. 3, 1976, p. 148; see also vol. 2, 1971, p. 118). Whether or not Nārada and Vṛddha Garga here discuss the cycle of the Seven Rishis, the fact that Nārada gives unique information on the Seven Rishis associates him with old teachings on astronomical cycles.
It is clear from the above that Nārada is considered to be an ancient astronomer, one of the very most eminent as the recipient of the astronomical teachings from Brahmā that formed the original but now lost Brahma-siddhānta.
By David Reigle on July 24, 2012 at 2:23 am
The Tiru Ganita Panchanga is the only known source that supports the 18 million years age of physical humanity. This is a key figure in The Secret Doctrine, given many times there. It is very important to try to determine how this figure was arrived at in the Tiru Ganita Panchanga. The figure that everyone else gets for the age of the Vaivasvata manvantara from the data given in the Sūrya-siddhānta is about 120 million years. It so happens that this latter figure, too, is given in The Secret Doctrine, from a secret commentary translated in vol. 2, p. 312 (followed by HPB’s comment):
“The last change took place nearly twelve crores of years ago (120,000,000). But the Earth with everything on her face had become cool, hard and settled ages earlier. (Commentary, xxii.)”
“Thus, if we are to believe esoteric teaching, there have been no more universal geological disturbances and changes for the last 120 millions of years, and the Earth was, even before that time, ready to receive her human stock. The appearance of the latter, however, in its full physical development, as already stated, took place only about eighteen millions of years ago, . . .”
So the 120 million years figure refers to one thing, and the 18 million years figure to another. The question is how the 18 million years figure is derived from the same data that yielded the 120 million years figure. David Pratt called my attention to a note in his “Secret Cycles” article, which mentions that Hans Malmstedt thought he had figured it out, but did not give it. See: http://davidpratt.info/secretcyc.htm#s9, where we read:
“It would be interesting to know how the figure of 18,618,841 years (SD 2:69) for Vaivasvata manvantara (up to 2000) was calculated. The last digit (1) indicates that it could be based on the yugas, since the present maha-yuga began 3,893,101 years ago. The period of 18,618,841 years began 826,260 years after the start of the treta-yuga of the fourth maha-yuga prior to the current maha-yuga. The significance of the period of 826,260 years (= 13,771 x 60) is not immediately evident.
Hans Malmstedt says that if we consider the period of 18,618,740 years preceding the present kali-yuga, and deduct 1075 periods of 1,728,000 years each (i.e. 18,576,000 years), we are left with 37,740 years. He adds: ‘This number of years has a certain relation to a far greater period, closely connected with the five globes above the seven manifested globes of our planetary chain’ (‘Our position in time on globe D’, The Theosophical Path, Oct 1933, pp. 226-35). Unfortunately, he does not expand on this bold assertion!”
In trying to figure these things out, we must take note of a typo in the 1880-1881 Tiru Ganita Panchanga that Dr. Ramanujachary kindly transcribed for us. In the line, “Years that passed since SWAYAMBHAVA Manu — 16645009981,” there is an extra “9”. The figure should be 1664500981, as confirmed by the figure given by HPB in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 2, p. 68) from the 1884-1885 issue. It is always the case that when figures are given, two or more printings must be checked in order to see if there are misprints. That is one reason why the 18 million years figure was in question. In this case, we can see the page for ourselves, and can see the typo. It is in the third of the scanned pages, near the top. A chart is there given, with the four main figures given first, then the eight other figures in two columns with a separating line. So the figure in question is the third of the main figures (or the seventh line from the top of the page, on the right hand side of that line). We can see that that figure has eleven digits rather than ten; and it does not take long to learn (by comparison) enough of the Telugu digits to see that the 9 is indeed doubled by mistake. Dr. Ramanujachary transcribed it correctly for us. It is a typographical error in the original.
The Telugu name of this panchanga that we learned from Dr. Ramanujachary, the Drik Ganita Panchanga, or Dṛg-gaṇita Pañcāṅga, is interesting. The Sanskrit term dṛg-gaṇita usually refers to astronomical calculations (gaṇita) that are based on, or corrected by, observation (dṛg = dṛk = dṛś = “see”). There is always a small margin of error in astronomical constants given in texts, so that over time, the calculated planetary positions no longer match the observed planetary positions. But because of the great authority of texts such as the Sūrya-siddhānta or the Āryabhaṭīya, people are hesitant to change the astronomical constants given in them. Thus, for example, the parahita system of calculations used in Kerala state in south India, put forth by Haridatta, was based directly on the astronomical constants given in the Āryabhaṭīya. Several centuries later, the Indian astronomer Parameśvara saw that the calculated positions no longer matched the observed positions. So he introduced the dṛg-gaṇita system of calculations, which incorporates corrections based on observation. See on this the English “Introduction” by the eminent scholar of Hindu astronomy K. V. Sarma (late of the Adyar Library) to his Sanskrit edition of Dṛggaṇita of Parameśvara (Hoshiarpur: Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute, 1963).
Similarly, we learn that in the 1900s “A new type of almanac, called Dṛggaṇita, whose calculation is based on modern Nautical almanacs and ephemerides is becoming popular” (T. S. Kuppanna Sastry, “A Brief History of Tamil Astronomy,” Madras University Journal, reprinted in his posthumously published book, Collected Papers on Jyotisha, Tirupati, 1989, pp. 329-344, quote from p. 342; he does not mention the Tiru Ganita Panchanga in this article). In fact, shortly after Indian independence, lack of uniformity in panchangas led to the establishment by the new government of a Calendar Reform Committee in 1952. Its recommendations were published in 1955. The government then began publishing a national panchanga, the Rashtriya Panchang, in 1957. It is based on the Nautical Almanac prepared and published in India, according to the issues of it that I obtained in India in the 1970s. It does not list elapsed years since creation, or of any manu or manvantara, nor does it refer to the Sūrya-siddhānta.
What a panchanga is and its place in Indian society is well described by S. K. Chatterjee and A. K. Chakravarty in their chapter, “Indian Calendar from Post-Vedic Period to AD 1900,” of the book, History of Astronomy in India (ed. S. N. Sen and K. S. Shukla, New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, 1985, second revised edition 2000, pp. 276-336, section on “Pañcāṅga or Indian Almanac,” pp. 290-304), p. 290:
“Pañcāṅga is a very important book published yearly and is the basic book of the society giving calendrical information of various nature on daily basis, and is extensively used by the people all over India. This publication is also one of the basic books of the astrologers for making astrological calculations, casting horoscopes, and for making predictions. It is also used considerably by a large section of the people as an astrological guide book for finding out auspicious time for undertaking various social and other activities and the inauspicious time for avoiding such activities. This book shows the date and time of various religious festivals, and is used by the priests for determining the auspicious moments for carrying out various religious rites, and as such it is a fundamental book which is referred to by a very large section of the people in this country.”
They go on to describe the five constituents of a pañcāṅga (literally, “five limbs”):
“(a) Vāra, that is, week day;
(b) Tithi, that is, lunar day. It is indicative of the phase of the Moon.
(c) Nakṣatra, that is, position of the Moon in the nakṣatra division.
(d) Yoga means literally addition. It is the time period when the longitudinal motions of the Sun and the Moon when added amounts to 13° 12’ or its integral multiple.
(e) Karaṇa means half period of a tithi.”
More detail about pañcāṅgas, their constituents, and the recommendations of the government Calendar Reform Committee is given by B. V. Subbarayappa in the chapter titled “Pañcāṅga” of his book, The Tradition of Astronomy in India: Jyotiḥśāstra (History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, Vol. IV, Part 4, New Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 2008), pp. 203-234. I am giving only references to these books rather than scanning and posting the chapters themselves, unless requested. This information is peripheral to our immediate purpose of trying to understand how the elapsed years of the Vaivasvata manvantara given in the Tiru Ganita Panchanga were calculated from the data given in the Sūrya-siddhānta. As seen, these elapsed years are given at the beginning of the Tiru Ganita Panchanga as added information, and it does not form part of what constitutes a panchanga. It is not given in modern panchangas.
In the last fifty years the majority of research articles published on the Sūrya-siddhānta and related texts have been appearing in Indian Journal of History of Science. It began in 1966, and is published by the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi. Recently, all the issues from 1966 to the present have become available online, at: http://insa.nic.in/INSAuth/OurPublications.aspx. You have to sign up to be able to download articles. If you are fortunate enough to live near a major academic library that carries this journal, note that the title is Indian Journal of History of Science, not Indian Journal of the History of Science, or you will not find it in the library catalogue. As may be expected, the great majority of these articles are concerned with astronomical calculations of planetary motions based on data given in the Sūrya-siddhānta. In the Sūrya-siddhānta, the data on the yugas and manvantaras precedes the main part of the text, and is found in chapter one. The yugas and manvantaras are usually considered by today’s intelligentsia as part of mythology rather than the history of science. The Secret Doctrine is usually considered by today’s intelligentsia as fantasy rather than mythology. So to have the support of even mythology is a decided gain.
By David Reigle on July 18, 2012 at 12:09 am
As noted in the posting dated May 20, 2012 (The Mystery of the Age of Humanity: Still Unsolved), Prof. C. A. Shinde (Librarian of the Adyar Library) kindly informed me that although the Adyar library does not have the particular issue that H. P. Blavatsky used, for kali yuga 4986 or 1884-1885 C.E., it does have several previous years of the Tirukkanda Panchanga, 1870-1881. This was wonderful news, since any one of these should give the epochs used in this long-defunct almanac, and that HPB used in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 2, pp. 68-69). I then requested the help of Dr. N. C. Ramanujachary with this, who has taken out time from his full schedule to carefully check the 1880-1881 issue and to write up a detailed reply. His extremely helpful reply has elucidated and clarified much for us. I have received his permission to post it here. It is dated July 15, 2012. He wrote:
“I am sorry for the delay but it was unavoidable because of my tours and non-availability of time.
But I am glad I was able to do some useful work on the way that was puzzling you, with the kind help of Prof. C A Shinde, the Librarian of the Adyar Library.
I will place the points in numbers:
- The Adyar Library has not got the said Panchangam for 1884-5, but luckily they have the number for 1880-81. By adding 4 years to the figures available in this, we get the actual years for 1884-5, I am sure you will agree.
- The name of the Panchanga is actually “Tiru (=Sri) Ganita (=mathematical) Panchangam” in Tamil and “Drik-Ganita-Panchangamu” in Telugu. Evidently the person who informed HPB of the names did not spell it well or the variation in pronunciation made it ‘Tirukkanda Panchangam’ – which is obviously wrong. The Panchangam is printed by ‘Vyavahara Tarangini Mudrakshara Sala’ at Chennapuri (=Madras). The compilers of the Panchangam are: Chintamani Raghunathacharyulu and Tadakamalla Venkata Krishna Rao living in Nungumbakkam and Triplicane (both are part-wards of Madras City). You will find the names of compilers were also defectively noted in The Secret Doctrine, as also all other records of literature derived from that.
- This Panchangam is published year after year in Tamil (Dravid) and Telugu. Happily as I know Telugu, I was able to fish out the material you wanted.
- I am holding photo-copies (2) of the title page and the Inner page where the figures are enumerated, given kindly by the Adyar Library; and will be able to post them by Air Mail if you can send me the Postal address, which I do not have now. If you need exact English translation of the pages, I can also give it.
- Now, coming to the figure/number part:
Calendar for the Vikrama year (1880-81)
According to Sri Surya Siddhanta :
Years that passed since Brahman-kalpa: 1972948980
Years that passed since Creation (Srishti) 1955884981
Years that passed since SWAYAMBHAVA Manu 16645009981
Years that passed in Vaivaswata Manu 18618721
Years that passed in Kaliyuga 4982
Years that passed in Vikrama Satabda 1938
Years that passed in Salivahana Saka 1803
YEARS THAT THIS PANCHANGA WAS SINCE PUBLISHED 12
MY NOTE [Dr. Ramanujachary]: The years in between the 2 border lines do not concern us now.
When you add 4 years (duration between 1880-81 & 84-85) to the years that passed in Vaivaswata Manu, we get the figure 18,618,725, which was adopted by HPB. Please also note the Tiru Ganita Panchangam clearly says the figures are according to SURYA SIDDHANTA.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dr. Ramanujachary then had scans of the relevant pages made and sent to me. They are here attached, so that anyone can see these things for themselves: tiruganitapanchangam.
First, we see that the title Tirukkanda Panchanga is incorrectly written. Using a phonetic spelling like HPB used, it is the Tiru Ganita Panchanga, following the Tamil, or the Drik Ganita Panchanga, following the Telugu. It is in fact the Dṛg-gaṇita Pañcāṅga, described in Sankar Balakrishna Dikshit’s book, Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra (references and link given at the end of the posting on the Tirukkanda Panchanga dated May 30).
Next, we see that there is indeed a typographical or clerical error in the figure 1,955,884,687 years given in The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, p. 68, which should be 1,955,884,987. This was deduced by Hans Malmstedt in his 1933 article, as reported by David Pratt (references and links given in the April 29, 2012 posting, Occult Chronology: The Age of the World, part 2). The figure 1,664,500,987 years given in The Secret Doctrine is also confirmed (see HPB’s footnote on this, vol. 2, p. 68), showing that Malmstedt has again provided the correct solution to this problem.
Last and most important, the figure for the age of the Vaivasvata manvantara, given in The Secret Doctrine as 18,618,728 years (vol. 2, p. 69), is confirmed as being correctly copied from the Tiru Ganita Panchanga. It is not a mistaken transcription, as I suggested may have been the case in my posting dated May 30, 2012. This puts us on firm ground to proceed with our investigation. We now have to determine how this figure was arrived at, based on information given in the Sūrya-siddhānta. Everyone else gets a figure of about 120 million years for the age of the Vaivasvata manvantara based on this data. It is possible that the compilers of the Tiru Ganita Panchanga had access to a more complete copy of the Sūrya-siddhānta. As stated in the posting on the Sūrya-siddhānta, dated May 15, 2012, manuscripts of this text vary widely. Most of the Sanskrit commentaries on it remain unpublished. The Indian astronomers who produced the Tiru Ganita Panchanga somehow got a figure of 18 million years for this. As Dr. Ramanujachary confirmed, in agreement with what HPB reported (SD 2.49-51), “the Tiru Ganita Panchangam clearly says the figures are according to SURYA SIDDHANTA.”
By Ingmar de Boer on July 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm
As we have seen, HPB associates Mahat, the Universal Mind or Intelligence, with the Second Logos. As Cosmic Ideation, we would associate it with the Nous and the world of Ideas of the Plotinic model, corresponding to the Second Logos. The Nous as the creative principle of the universe on the other hand, may be associated with the third aspect, not the second. In the Besant-Leadbeater interpretation the Nous is the creative Mind, corresponding to the Third Logos, Divine Activity. Therefore in this model the Demiurge is associated with the Third Logos, again because the third is the “creative aspect”. Notably, in both models the Dhyan Chohans are connected with the third aspect.
These different views, as we have seen, can be traced to the Plotinic interpretation of the three logoi by HPB, versus the interpretation of Damascius, and subsequently Mead in his Orpheus, and Besant and Leadbeater. Another source for Mead however, was The Secret Doctrine, as it was, naturally, for Besant and Leadbeater. Did Mead, Besant and Leadbeater make a conscious choice to deviate from HPB’s interpretation? We do not have an argumentation from any of them for doing so. Maybe they did not think they were so far removed from HPB’s interpretation? In SD I, 256 we find:
For MAHAT is the first product of Pradhana, or Akasa, and Mahat — Universal intelligence “whose characteristic property is Buddhi” — is no other than the Logos, for he is called “Eswara” Brahma, Bhava, etc. (See Linga Purana, sec. lxx. 12 et seq.; and Vayu Purana, but especially the former Purana — prior, section viii., 67-74). He is, in short, the “Creator” or the divine mind in creative operation, “the cause of all things.”
Pradhāna is associated with he First Logos, cp. Mūlaprakṛti. The first product of pradhāna is the Second Logos. Universal intelligence is the Logos, Īśvara, Brahmā, again the Second Logos, not the Third. In the next phrase the problem becomes apparent: he is the “Creator”, “the divine mind in creative operation”, which could easily be interpreted as the third aspect. It is, confusingly, about the Second Logos, the Divine Mind or Wisdom, and not about fohat, its force, i.e. the Third Logos.
We can see that the cause of misunderstanding here is, that the description of the Second and Third Logoi is not unambiguous. This quote from SD I, 256 is only one example, but this ambiguity occurs repeatedly through the whole text of the SD, making it difficult to reconstruct the model of the triad as it was intended.
When we combine the correspondences between the two interpretations, we might come to the following three “definitions”.
1. The First Logos is the ever unmanifest Logos, Divine Will.
2. The Second Logos is the manifested Logos, Divine Wisdom.
3. The Third Logos is described by HPB as the “light of the Logos”, Divine Activity.
I will summarize here, the model presented in The Secret Doctrine, suppleted with the terminology from The Ancient Wisdom and other correspondences found, leaving out the differences which are based on problems of interpretation, as we have been able to show, I hope convincingly, in these posts on the Three Logoi.
1. First Logos, the One, the Ever Unmanifest, represented by Mūlaprakṛti, the Plotinic and Orphic Hen, Hyparxis, Universal Good, the Christian Father-aspect, Divine Will.
2. Second Logos, the manifested Logos, the Logos proper, the Verbum, the Plotinic Nous, the Demiurge, HPB’s Anima Mundi, Creative Intelligence, Mahat, Universal Mind, Universal Intelligence, Divine Mind, Divine Wisdom, the Son-aspect, the Christ, Brahmā, Īśvara, Avalokiteśvara (manifested).
3. Third Logos, the Light of the Logos, Fohat, Daiviprakṛti, the Plotinic Psuchē, Universal Soul (the Plotinic Anima Mundi), the Nous of Anaxagoras, Divine Activity, the Holy Ghost.
By Ingmar de Boer on at 4:59 pm
2. The three logoi in The Secret Doctrine
Metaphysicians explain the root and germ of the latter, according to Mr. Subba Row, as the first manifestation of Parabrahmam, “the highest trinity that we are capable of understanding,” which is Mulaprakriti (the veil), the Logos, and the conscious energy “of the latter,” or its power and light*; or — “matter, force and the Ego, or the one root of self, of which every other kind of self is but a manifestation or a reflection.”
So we have as the triad, according to Subba Row (Notes…, TUP 2nd ed., p. 22):
2. Eswara or Logos,
3. conscious energy of the Logos, which is its power and light.
Subba Row describes Mūlaprakṛti as a “veil over parabrahman”. He identifies the third aspect with the concept of Daiviprakṛti as used in the Bhagavad Gīta, and notes that it “is called fohat in several Buddhist books”.
HPB and Subba Row’s interpretation seems to correspond to Plotinus, who is considered the main representative of the Neo-Platonic system. In this model the Nous is the second hypostasis:
1. To Hen (The One)
2. Ho Nous (Intellect, Spirit, Universal Mind)
3. Hē Psuchē (The World Soul)
Mead in his work on Plotinus (p. 26 and 28) also describes the Nous as the second principle. Proclus, in his Metaphysical Elements, follows Plotinus in this respect: Proposition XX: The essence of soul [Hē Psuchē] is beyond all bodies [To Sōma], the intellectual nature [Ho Nous] is beyond all souls, and The One [To Hen] is beyond, all intellectual hypostases.
In the Christian tradition, for example in Augustinus’ De Trinitate, we find the same triad:
1. Father, cp. To Hen
2. Son, the Christ, the Word, the Logos, cp. Ho Nous
3. Holy Ghost, cp. the Anima Mundi, World Soul, Hē Psuchē
Contrary to Plotinus however, who identified the Nous with the Demiurge, in the Christian tradition the Father-aspect is identified with the Creator God, as formulated in the first line of the Nicene Creed of 325 (tr. Philip Schaff):
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
3. The three logoi in The Ancient Wisdom
The introduction to Besant’s The Ancient Wisdom we find a clue as to the origin of the Besant-Leadbeater interpretation. On page 28, reference is made to Orpheus, a study by G.R.S. Mead of 1896 on the theogony of the Orphic religion. In Orpheus the creation of the universe begins with The One. The One Existence is called thrice unknown darkness in the Orphic system. From the darkness comes the primordial triad, with its three hypostases:
1. Universal Good (super-essential),
2. World Soul (self-motive essence),
3. Intellect (Mind).
These three hypostases “appear”, in AW p. 34-35, as the Christian Trinity where the First Logos is the Father, the “fount of all life”, the Second Logos the Son, and the Third Logos the Holy Ghost, the “creative Mind”. The creative Mind, the “noetic” aspect, is presented here as the third aspect.
From Orpheus (p. 93) we learn that the essential characteristics of the Orphic triads are defined by Plato as
1. Bound (hyparxis)
2. Infinite (power)
3. Mixed (noesis, fr. Nous)
In Plato’s dialogue Philebus, these characteristics are summed up by Socrates in a different order: 1. infinite (apeiron), 2. finite (peras) and 3. mixed (meikton). In SD I, 426, HPB states that Porphyry shows that the Monad and the Duad of Pythagoras are identical with Plato’s infinite and finite in “Philebus” — or what Plato calls the ἄπειρον and πέρας, confirming this order. The noetic, μεικτόν, is again in third position.
Mead in his turn in Orpheus refers to Neo-Platonist authors Proclus and Damascius. Damascius’ Difficulties and Solutions of First Principles seems to be Mead’s main source concerning the Orphic metaphysical system. Moreover, HPB has also read this work, and refers to it as “πρώτων ἀρχῶν“. In the First Principles, for example in the French translation of Edouard Chaignet of 1898, we find in § 55 that the third principle, which is the Nous, “is called mixed by Plato” and by “Philolaus and the pythagoreans”. The Three Universal Principles, the proenōma, are called
1. Father, Patēr
2. Power, Dunamis
3. Reason, Nous
We can see that Damascius’ interpretation of the Primordial Triad goes back to Plato’s Philebus. Even earlier, Anaxagoras (and later Aristotle) used the term Nous to denote purely the creative principle in the universe. As such, it could of course also be associated with the third principle.
Continued in part 3
By Ingmar de Boer on at 4:48 pm
H.P. Blavatsky (HPB), in The Secret Doctrine uses the term Logos throughout the text (with capital “L”, and without prior ordinal), usually indicating the so called Second Logos. In The Secret Doctrine each of the three logoi is attributed consistently to one of the three aspects, the hypostases, of what may be called the first cosmological triad of our system. Studying the three logoi in The Secret Doctrine can easily lead to confusion, not only because the subject matter itself is prone to confusion, but also because HPB’s style of writing can at times be very confusing.
In the oevres of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater on the other hand, the three logoi are more clearly defined, but unfortunately they do not in every respect correspond to the logoi in The Secret Doctrine. In many later theosophical works, and also in many other modern works in the area of spirituality, the three logoi are often introduced without any attempt to definition, while implicitly referring to the relevant works of Besant and Leadbeater.
We could ask ourselves what is the origin of the Besant-Leadbeater interpretation, and how does it correspond to HPB’s version of the logoi? Can we explain the differences? Could we perhaps formulate new air-tight definitions for the three logoi?
1. Some Examples of Differences
There are some clear differences in interpretation, which we could discuss here, illustrated with examples from both Besant’s The Ancient Wisdom (AW) and HPB’s The Secret Doctrine (SD), before trying to go deeper into the foundations of the models.
Example 1: Mahat
In SD II, 468 we have:
[...] it is the Logos Demiurge (the second logos), or the first emanation from the mind (Mahat), […]
Instead, in AW, p.112, we find:
[...] the Great Mind in the Kosmos. (Mahat, the Third LOGOS, or Divine Creative Intelligence, the Brahmâ of the Hindus, the Mandjusri of the Northern Buddhists, the Holy Spirit of the Christians.)
HPB in the SD associates Mahat with the Second Logos, Divine Wisdom, the Brahmā of the Hindus, the Son-aspect of the Christians, instead of the Third.
Example 2: Mahat, the Demiurge and Avalokiteśvara
In SD I, 572 we have:
[...] universal Buddhi (the Maha-buddhi or Mahat in Hindu philosophies) the spiritual, omniscient and omnipotent root of divine intelligence, the highest anima mundi or the Logos.
The “Logos” here is the manifested or Second Logos. HPB in the SD identifies the Universal Mind (Mahat) with the Second Logos.
Further in SD I, 110 we have:
Simultaneously with the evolution of the Universal Mind, the concealed Wisdom of Adi-Buddha — the One Supreme and eternal — manifests itself as Avalokiteshwara (or manifested Iswara), which is the Osiris of the Egyptians, the Ahura-Mazda of the Zoroastrians, the Heavenly Man of the Hermetic philosopher, the Logos of the Platonists, and the Atman of the Vedantins.* By the action of the manifested Wisdom, or Mahat, represented by these innumerable centres of spiritual Energy in the Kosmos, the reflection of the Universal Mind, which is Cosmic Ideation and the intellectual Force accompanying such ideation, becomes objectively the Fohat of the Buddhist esoteric philosopher.
The Logos of the (Neo-) Platonists is the Plotinic Second Logos. It is the Demiurge and Avalokiteśvara, and corresponds to Mahat. In SD I, 72n we have, to be sure that HPB does not mean the Third Logos:
But there are two Avalokiteshwaras in Esotericism; the first and the second Logos.
Instead, in AW p. 42 we find:
Then the Third LOGOS, the Universal Mind, […]
Note that in the quotation from SD I, 110, the Anima Mundi (Second Logos), is not equivalent to the Anima Mundi, the World Soul, of the Neo-Platonists, which is the third aspect. This is, of course, to make things easier for us…
Example 3: Brahmā
In SD I, 381n we have:
In Indian Puranas it is Vishnu, the first, and Brahma, the second logos, or the ideal and practical creators, [...]
HPB in the SD identifies Brahmā with the Second Logos.
Instead, in AW p. 14-15 we find:
The LOGOS in His triple manifestation is : [..]the Third, Manjusri – “the representative of creative wisdom, corresponding to Brahmâ.”
We could now take a closer look at the “definitions” of the three logoi in both these works, in the next post.
By David Reigle on July 1, 2012 at 3:17 am
In the Mokṣopāya, the “Means to Liberation,” we have the least mythological and most detailed account of cosmogony, especially its very early stages, found in any Sanskrit book known to me. The Mokṣopāya, as described here earlier (April 13, 2012), is an unrevised and considerably more original version of what has become known as the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha. Through the kindness of a friend, I have now acquired the recently published large Sanskrit volume giving its utpatti-prakaraṇa, the section (prakaraṇa) on the origination (utpatti) of the world (Mokṣopāya, Das Dritte Buch: Utpattiprakaraṇa, Kritische Edition von Jürgen Hanneder, Peter Stephan und Stanislav Jager, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011). The fact that ultimately the world has never really arisen, according to this text, does not prevent this text from teaching cosmogony, which it here does. A large percentage of the Mokṣopāya (and Yoga-vāsiṣṭha) is teaching stories used to illustrate its ideas. Only a small percentage directly states the teachings. The core account of cosmogony is found in chapter twelve of the utpatti-prakaraṇa or third section of the Mokṣopāya. No translation of this yet exists. Martin Gansten informs me that the projected translation of this section by him, announced in The Mokṣopāya, Yogavāsiṣṭha and Related Texts (2005, p. 4), had to be abandoned years ago. Roland Steiner informs me that it is years away in the German translation that is underway by him as part of the Mokṣopāya Project, funded by two German universities. I have not heard of any English translation that is either planned or begun. I have therefore translated this chapter myself, since it is of fundamental importance for Book of Dzyan research.
An altered version of this chapter is, of course, found in the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha. The only complete translation of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha is that by Vihāri-lāla Mitra, published in four large volumes, 1891-1899 (Calcutta). Unfortunately, it is more of an interpretation than a translation. About this translation B. L. Atreya writes in his extensive 1936 study, The Philosophy of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha (p. 31), that it “is praiseworthy only as an effort, not as a translation. It is not reliable, being wrong at numberless places. It is altogether useless for a student of the philosophy of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha.” While it may not be useless for other purposes, so that the years of labor bestowed by Mitra on the translation were not in vain, I would agree that it is useless for those who want to study the philosophy. It is just too loose. Moreover, Mitra often adds things of his own that are not in the Sanskrit. At the same time, he often omits the more difficult terms, simply leaving them out of his translation. Thus, from his translation, a reader cannot know what is and is not in the Sanskrit text. Since his time, a few summarized and paraphrased translations of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha have been published (e.g., Vasiṣṭha’s Yoga, by Swami Venkatesananda). But for the chapter in question they are too vague and general to be of much use for comparative studies of its cosmogony.
B. L. Atreya gives a general summary of this chapter in his book, The Philosophy of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, on pp. 188-189. He then notes: “The above passages are freely rendered into English, as literal translation would appear to be unintelligible.” Intelligible or not, a literally accurate translation (as accurate as English allows) is necessary for comparative research on cosmogony, especially the detailed cosmogony of the Book of Dzyan. Atreya probably here also alludes to the fact that while it is usually possible to get the text’s general meaning, its precise meaning is often uncertain. The Yoga-vāsiṣṭha uses some unusual words whose exact meaning has not been fully ascertained. This is even more the case in the Mokṣopāya, where considerably more unusual words are found. These have often been changed into familiar words in the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, sometimes changing the meaning entirely. On more common words, there are always questions about which of their several meanings are intended. These include many technical terms, whose meanings vary from one system to another. The metrical verse format means that in many cases more than one way to construe the words into sentences is possible. A verse can be taken in various ways. So while one may get the general sense well enough, the precise meaning cannot always be arrived at with certainty. Along with this is the fact that Sanskrit technical terms simply have no accurate English equivalents in many cases. The Yoga-vāsiṣṭha and Mokṣopāya use, for example, several different terms for consciousness, with varying shades of meaning. Sometimes these are used as synonyms, and sometimes they are not. Even when these shades of meaning are understood by the translator, they often cannot be rendered into English for lack of equivalents. These two facts make it difficult to produce a complete and literally accurate translation. Despite the difficulty, a literally accurate translation of chapter twelve of the third section of the Mokṣopāya must be attempted.
Sanskrit texts written in verse are normally read in India with the help of commentaries, because sentences are often somewhat abbreviated when put into verse. There exists a very helpful commentary on the Mokṣopāya, written by Bhāskara-kaṇṭha, but unfortunately we do not have it complete. It so happens that the extant fragment of this commentary on the utpatti-prakaraṇa breaks off after three and a half verses of chapter twelve (Bhāskarakaṇṭhas Mokṣopāya-ṭīkā: Die Fragmente des 3. (Utpatti-)Prakaraṇa, ed. Walter Slaje, Graz, 1995, pp. 186-187). For the construal and meaning of the remaining verses of this chapter we have little help. The commentary by Ānanda-bodhendra Sarasvatī on the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha comments on a text that differs substantially from the Mokṣopāya, and does so from the standpoint of Advaita Vedānta (which is not the standpoint of the Mokṣopāya). Nonetheless, I have consulted this commentary and taken help from it where possible. These cases have been clearly noted.
For most of this chapter of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha there is also a carefully done translation by Samvid that attempts to be literally accurate. It is found in The Vision and the Way of Vasiṣṭha (Madras: Indian Heritage Trust, 1993, pp. 141-147). This book is the Vāsiṣṭhadarśanam, 2,461 of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha’s approximately 28,000 verses, selected by B. L. Atreya as giving the philosophy of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha. To Atreya’s collection, first published in Sanskrit in 1936, is here added a careful English translation by Samvid. He writes (p. xlviii): “The translator is aware that his obsession with exactitude in translation has led to complex constructions in several places and perhaps, some transgression of the normally accepted usage of the language. The translator hopes that the readers will pardon this apparent shortcoming, since the advantages of the translator’s approach outweigh those of the usual paraphrases which are presented as translations.” Where the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha and the Mokṣopāya coincide, I have found this translation to be very helpful, and have adopted some phrases from it. The extensive differences between Samvid’s translation and my translation mostly reflect the considerable differences between the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha and the Mokṣopāya, and sometimes the different possibilities for English translation of the same Sanskrit.
For the meaning of the unusual words found in the Mokṣopāya (and often in the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha), and to determine as accurately as possible the meaning intended for the more common words, I have spent many hours searching for and checking other passages in which they occur in the Mokṣopāya, and for glosses of them in the extant portions of Bhāskara-kaṇṭha’s commentary on the Mokṣopāya (sections one through four, edited by Walter Slaje, 1993-2002). This has been made easily possible through the courtesy of Walter Slaje, in supplying a searchable electronic file of these four volumes to the GRETIL (Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages) project, available at: http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen.de/gretil/1_sanskr/6_sastra/3_phil/vedanta/motik_au.htm. This searchable electronic file has allowed me to check a substantial portion of the Mokṣopāya for these terms, to a degree that was not possible with the physical printed volumes. It is never safe to attempt to translate a piece of a large work before the whole has been studied. Since it has not been possible for me to study the whole Mokṣopāya, due to its great size and also because much of it still remains unpublished, I have derived much benefit from Jürgen Hanneder’s 2006 book, Studies on the Mokṣopāya (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag). Hanneder’s book has provided a very helpful perspective on the whole text.
The Sanskrit text of this chapter has been very carefully edited, as far as I can judge. It has been a joy to work with. We have Jürgen Hanneder to thank for the extremely accurate edition of this chapter. This excellent scholarship provides a solid basis for reliable research. The translation of this chapter has likewise been done as carefully as possible, and it should provide reasonably accurate access to this important material on cosmogony. Sanskrit technical terms are given in parentheses after their English translations, which can only be approximate. Additions to what is actually stated in the Sanskrit text are given in square brackets. Sometimes they fill in what a pronoun refers to, based on its gender in Sanskrit. When explanatory material is added in brackets to make sense of a line, references to its source in other passages of the text are given in the “Translation Notes” following the translation. These are marked with asterisks. The “Translation Notes” also include some of the sources from which I derived the meaning of unusual terms not found in our Sanskrit dictionaries (or not found there in the appropriate meaning), and explain my choice of translation terms used for them.
The first several verses give an unusually detailed account of the initial stages of the arising of the world. In this text, unlike the Book of Dzyan, the ultimate (here called brahman) is equated with pure consciousness (cin-mātra). “Creation,” or more accurately and literally “emanation,” is called its radiance (kacana), which becomes a functioning consciousness (as opposed to pure consciousness). As this functioning consciousness takes on a sense of self-consciousness the world condenses into manifestation. The idea of self-consciousness (ahaṃkāra) is also found in Sāṃkhya, where it is often applied to the human constitution, so has sometimes been translated as ego or egoism or egotism. In verses 13 onward we see another idea that is found in Sāṃkhya, what is usually translated as the subtle elements (tanmātra). Both here and in Sāṃkhya, the principle of self-consciousness (ahaṃkāra) produces the subtle elements. The subtle elements in turn produce the great elements (mahā-bhūtas): space (or ether), air, earth, fire, and water. These latter elements are apparently used symbolically, and not as the physical elements of those names. In order to follow this chapter of the Mokṣopāya, it is necessary to know the Sāṃkhya teaching on the subtle elements and great elements. According to Gauḍapāda’s commentary on Sāṃkhya-kārikā, verse 3:
(1) the subtle element sound (śabda) generates the great element space or ether (ākāśa).
(2) the subtle element touch (sparśa) generates the great element air (vāyu).
(3) the subtle element smell (gandha) generates the great element earth (pṛthivī).
(4) the subtle element form (rūpa) generates the great element fire (tejas).
(5) the subtle element taste (rasa) generates the great element water (apas).
It seems that the Mokṣopāya is willing to refer to the subtle elements either by their own names, sound (śabda), etc., or by the names of the great elements that they produce, space (ākāśa), etc. Thus, the Mokṣopāya may refer to the subtle element of space, meaning the subtle element of sound. This must be noted to avoid confusion.
Mokṣopāya, Section 3, Chapter 12
etasmāt paramāc chāntāt padāt parama-pāvanāt |
yathedam utthitaṃ viśvaṃ tac chṛṇūttamayā dhiyā || 1 ||
1. Listen with utmost understanding to how this universe has arisen from that highest quiescent place, of the highest purity.
suṣuptaṃ svapnavad bhāti bhāti brahmaiva sargavat |
sarvam ekaṃ ca tac chāntaṃ tatra tāvat kramaṃ śṛṇu || 2 ||
2. [Just as] one who is asleep appears as dream, [so] also brahman appears as creation (“emanation”). That quiescent [brahman] is the all and the one. In regard to this [emanation of the universe], listen to the sequence in its entirety.
sattā-mātrātma kacanaṃ yad ajasraṃ svabhāvataḥ || 3 ||
tad ātmani svayaṃ kiñcic cetyatām iva gacchati |
agṛhītārthakaṃ saṃvidīhāmarśana-sūcakam || 4 ||
3-4. The radiance (that is manifestation), having the nature of the mere state of existing (sattā) of that [brahman] whose form consists of the infinite light of the jewel of all-pervading consciousness (cit), ever by its inherent nature (svabhāva), in itself, by itself, becomes to a certain extent as if cognizable. Here, no objects are apprehended in consciousness (saṃvid), and there is no indication of conscious deliberation (marśana).
bhāvi-nāmartha-kalanaiḥ kiñcid ūhita-rūpakam |
ākāśād aṇu śuddhaṃ ca sarvasmin bhāvi-bodhanam || 5 ||
5. Through the conceiving (kalana) of future names and objects [of the universe about to be manifested], its form becomes perceived to a certain extent, being subtler and purer than space (ākāśa). This is the awakening that is about to take place in all.
tatas sā paramā sattā satītaś cetanonmukhī |
cin-nāma-yogyā bhavati kiñcil labhyatayā tayā || 6 ||
6. Then that highest state of existing (sattā), now being ready for [functioning] consciousness (cetana) [as opposed to pure consciousness, cin-mātra],* becomes fit to be called consciousness (cit) due to this attainability [in speech or thought] to a certain extent.
ghana-saṃvedanāt paścād bhāvi-jīvādi-nāmikā |
sā bhavaty ātma-kalanā yadā yāntī parāt padāt || 7 ||
7. After that, from dense [i.e., undivided] cognition (saṃvedana), [comes that consciousness (cit) which is] called future individual souls (jīva), etc. It becomes the conception (kalanā) of self (ātman) when going from the highest place.
svataika-bhāvanā-mātra-sārā saṃsaraṇonmukhī |
tadā vastu-svabhāvena tanvas tiṣṭhanti tām imāḥ || 8 ||
8. [That consciousness (cit) whose] essence is only the single ideation (bhāvanā) of its own nature (svatā) is ready for cycling in the round of rebirth. Then, through the inherent nature (svabhāva) of the substance (vastu) [i.e., consciousness (cit)], these selves (tanū) establish it [in manifestation].
samanantaram etasyāḥ kha-sattodeti śūnyatā |
śabdādi-guṇa-bījaṃ sā bhaviṣyad-abhidhārtha-dā || 9 ||
9. Immediately thereafter, from that* arises the state of existing (sattā) of space, [which state of existing of space is] emptiness (śūnyatā). It, the giver of future names and objects, is the seed of the qualities (guṇa) beginning with sound.
*jīva-sattā, “the state of existing of the individual souls,” according to the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha commentator Ānanda-bodhendra, which also makes sense here in the Mokṣopāya.
ahantodeti tad-anu saha vai kāla-sattayā |
bhaviṣyad-abhidhārthe te bījaṃ mukhyaṃ jagat-sthiteḥ || 10 ||
10. After that the sense of individuality (ahaṃtā, lit. “I-ness”) arises, along with the state of existing (sattā) of time. In regard to future names and objects, these are the primary seed of the subsistence (sthiti) of the world.
tasyāś śakteḥ parāyās tu sva-saṃvedana-mātrakam |
etaj jālam asad-rūpam sad ivodeti visphurat || 11 ||
11. From this highest power (śakti) comes mere self-cognition (sva-saṃvedana). Manifesting, this web in the form of the unreal (asat) arises as if real (sat).
evam-prāyātmikā sā cid bījaṃ saṅkalpa-śākhinaḥ |
tatrāpy ahaṅkāra-karas sa tat-spandatayā marut || 12 ||
12. That consciousness (cit), of such kind, is the seed of the tree of creative thought (saṃkalpa). There also is the maker of self-consciousness (ahaṃkāra). That [self-consciousness], as the motion (spanda) of that [consciousness], is wind.
cid ahantāvatī vyoma-śabda-tanmātra-bhāvanāt |
svato ghanībhūya śanaiḥ kha-tanmātraṃ bhavaty alam || 13 ||
13. Consciousness (cit) possessing the sense of individuality (ahaṃtā), gradually becoming dense, as a result of the ideation (bhāvanā)* of the subtle element (tanmātra) of sound or space from itself, fully becomes the subtle element of space.
*i.e., the developing in thought.
bhāvi-nāmārtha-rūpaṃ tad bījaṃ śabdaugha-śākhinaḥ |
pada-vākya-pramāṇāḍhya-veda-vṛnda-vikāri tat || 14 ||
14. That, in the form of future names and objects, is the seed of the tree of the multitude of sounds. It has for its products the multitude of knowledge (veda), rich in the measures (pramāṇa) of words and sentences.
tasmād udeṣyaty akhilā jagac-chrīś śabda-rūpiṇaḥ
śabdaugha-nirmitārthaugha-pariṇāma-visāriṇī || 15 ||
15. From that [seed] in the form of sound will arise the entire splendor of the world, diffusing as the transformations of the multitude of objects formed by the multitude of sounds.
cid evam-parivārā sā jīva-śabdena kathyate |
bhāvi-śabdartha-jālena bījaṃ bhūtaugha-śākhinaḥ || 16 ||
16. This consciousness (cit) having such a retinue is described by the word “individual soul” (jīva). By means of the web of future sounds and objects it is the seed of the tree of the multitude of beings.
caturdaśa-vidhaṃ bhūta-jātam āvalitāmbaram |
jagaj-jaṭhara-yantraughaṃ prasariṣyati vai tataḥ || 17 ||
17. From that will flow forth the fourteenfold class of beings [of the fourteen worlds],* whose space is enclosed [in the egg of Brahmā],* the multitude of instruments (yantra) in the womb of the world.
asamprāptābhidhā-sārā cij jīvatvāt sphurad-vapuḥ |
yā saiva sparśa-tanmātraṃ bhāvanād bhavati kṣaṇāt || 18 ||
18. The same consciousness (cit) that in its essence has not acquired names, [but that] in its form is manifesting because of being the individual soul (jīva), becomes the subtle element of touch in a moment through ideation (bhāvanā).
pavana-skandha-vistāraṃ bījaṃ sparśaika-śākhinaḥ |
sarva-bhūta-kriyā-spandas tasmāt samprasariṣyati || 19 ||
19. [The subtle element of touch is] the seed of the single tree of touch, [a seed] whose expansion is the branches that comprise [the element] air. From that will flow forth the motion (or vibrations, spanda) in the form of all beings and activities.
tatra yaś cid-vilāsena prakāśo ’nubhavād bhavet |
tejas-tanmātrakaṃ tat tad bhaviṣyad-abhidhārtha-dam || 20 ||
20. There, the light that will come into existence by the play of consciousness (cit) due to [its self-]experience* is the subtle element of fire. It is the giver of future names and objects.
tat sūryādi-vijṛmbhābhir bījam āloka-śākhinaḥ |
tasmād rūpa-vibhedena saṃsāraḥ prasariṣyati || 21 ||
21. That, through its manifestations as the sun, etc., is the seed of the tree of light. From that, through the division of forms (rūpa), the cycle of rebirth will flow forth.
bhavac caturṇām avatas tatas sata ivāsataḥ |
svadanaṃ tasya saṅghasya rasa-tanmātram ucyate || 22 ||
22. Being below the four [other subtle elements, arising] from that [principle of self-consciousness, which although actually] non-existing is as if existing,* is tasting. Of this group [of subtle elements], it is called the subtle element of taste.
bhāvi-vāri-vilāsātma tad bījaṃ rasa-śākhinaḥ |
anyo’nyāsvadanenāsmāt saṃsāraḥ prasariṣyati || 23 ||
23. That [subtle element of taste], having the nature of the manifestation (“play,” vilāsa) of future water, is the seed of the tree of taste. From that, by mutual tasting, the cycle of rebirth will flow forth.
bhaviṣyad-gandha-saṅkalpa-nāmāsau kalanātmakā |
saṅkalpātmā sa-saugandha-tanmātratvaṃ prayacchati || 24 ||
24. That called the creative thought (saṃkalpa) of future smell, consisting of conception (kalanā), having the nature of creative thought (saṃkalpa), gives forth the subtle element of smell.
bhāvi-bhū-golakatvena bījam ākṛti-śākhinaḥ |
sarvādhārātmanas tasmāt saṃsāraḥ prasariṣyati || 25 ||
25. As the future sphere of the earth it is the seed of the tree of shapes (ākṛti, i.e., the modes of appearance of all things). From that, having the nature of the support of all, the cycle of rebirth will flow forth.
citā vibhāvyamānāni tanmātrāṇi parasparam |
svayaṃ pariṇatāny antar ambunīva nirantaram || 26 ||
26. Being ideated by consciousness (cit), the subtle elements are continually transformed one by the other of their own accord within [consciousness] like [water] in water.*
tathaitāni vimiśrāṇi viviktāni punar yathā |
na śuddhāny upalabhyante sarva-nāśāntam eva hi || 27 ||
27. These [subtle elements], so being mixed, are not perceived as again distinct and pure up to the very end at the universal destruction.
saṃvitti-mātra-rūpāṇi sthitāni gaganodare |
bhavanti vaṭa-jālāni yathā bīja-kaṇāntare || 28 ||
28. Situated in the womb of space in the form of mere consciousness (saṃvitti), they are like hosts of banyan trees inside tiny seeds.
prasavaṃ paripaśyanti śata-śākhaṃ sphuranti ca |
paramāṇv-antare mānti kṣaṇāt kalpībhavanti ca || 29 ||
29. They picture progeny and manifest a hundred branches. They are contained inside an ultimate atom (paramāṇu) and in a moment become all-creating thought (kalpa).
vivartam eva dhāvanti nirvivartāni santi ca |
cid-veditāni sarvāṇi kṣaṇāt piṇḍībhavanti hi || 30 ||
30. Being without modification (vivarta) they flow [out to become] the [apparent] modification [that is the world], and experienced (or felt, vedita) in consciousness (cit) they all become solidified in a moment.
tanmātra-gaṇam etat sā sva-saṅkalpātmakaṃ citiḥ |
vedanāvasare ’ṇv-augham anākāraiva paśyati || 31 ||
31. This group of subtle elements is that consciousness (citi) consisting of its own creative thought (saṃkalpa). In the scope of experience (vedana) [that consciousness] which is quite without forms (ākāra, modes of appearance) pictures [into existence] the multitude of atoms (aṇu).
bījaṃ jagatsu nanu pañcaka-mātram asya
bījaṃ parā vyavahitā citi-śaktir ādyā |
tajjaṃ tad eva bhavatīti sadānubhūtaṃ
cin-mātram ekam ajam ādyam ato jagacchrīḥ || 32 ||
32. Surely the seed of the worlds is only the group of five [subtle elements]. The seed of that is the concealed highest primordial power of consciousness (citi-śakti). That [group of five subtle elements] indeed becomes born from that [power of consciousness]. Thus is always experienced (or known, anubhūta) the one unborn primordial pure consciousness (cin-mātra). From it [arises] the splendor of the world.
Comparison with the Book of Dzyan
The Mokṣopāya provides an account of cosmogony that is complementary to the cosmogony account given in the Book of Dzyan. The Mokṣopāya account is given from the standpoint of an ultimate consciousness, while the Book of Dzyan account is given from the standpoint of an ultimate substance. According to The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, pp. 14-15), these are the two aspects under which our finite intelligence must symbolize or conceive the one ultimate “be-ness.” A very helpful comparison of the two systems of cosmogony was made by the Advaita Vedāntin Theosophist T. Subba Row, in his article, “A Personal and an Impersonal God.” The Yoga-vāsiṣṭha has long been considered an Advaita Vedānta work, and from the terminology used by T. Subba Row, it is clear that this was his source for describing the Advaita system. He uses the term cid-ākāśa, which is not found in the standard Advaita Vedānta works of Śaṅkarācārya, etc., and also cin-mātra and cit-śakti, all of which are basic terms of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha. Indeed, in T. Subba Row’s third lecture on the Bhagavad-gītā (December 29, 1886), he says about the gāyatrī that: “It is stated to be Cit-śakti by Vasiṣṭha” (T. Subba Row Collected Writings, comp. Henk J. Spierenburg, vol. 2, p. 511). In comparing the two systems of cosmogony, he refers to the system of the Book of Dzyan as the Arhat system. He concludes in this article:
“Now, it will be easily seen that the undifferentiated Cosmic matter, Purush, and the ONE LIFE of the Arhat philosophers, are the Mulaprakriti, Chidakasam and Chinmatra of the Adwaitee philosophers. As regards Cosmogony, the Arhat stand-point is objective, and the Adwaitee stand-point is subjective. The Arhat Cosmogony accounts for the evolution of the manifested solar system from undifferentiated Cosmic matter, and Adwaitee Cosmogony accounts for the evolution of Bahipragna from the original Chinmatra. As the different conditions of differentiated Cosmic matter are but the different aspects of the various conditions of pragna, the Adwaitee Cosmogony is but the complement of the Arhat Cosmogony. The eternal Principle is precisely the same in both the systems and they agree in denying the existence of an extra-Cosmic God.”
(The Theosophist, vol. 4, March 1883, pp. 138-139; reprint in Five Years of Theosophy, London, 1885, pp. 208-209; Second and Revised Edition, London, 1894, p. 133; reprint in A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row, published by Tookaram Tatya, Bombay, 1895, pp. 97-98; reprint in T. Subba Row Collected Writings, compiled by Henk J. Spierenburg, San Diego, 2001, vol. 1, p. 127; the concluding portion of the article, including this paragraph, was mistakenly left out in the reprint in Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row, Second Edition—Revised and Enlarged, Madras, 1931, ending on p. 470; reprint, 1980)
A few points of comparison between the Mokṣopāya chapter (section 3, chapter 12) and the “Book of Dzyan” stanzas given in The Secret Doctrine may be noted:
Mokṣopāya verses 3 and 8 say that manifestation is due to the inherent nature (svabhāva) of pure consciousness. Similarly, the Book of Dzyan teaches that manifestation is due to the inherent nature (svabhāva) of the one element.
Mokṣopāya verse 9 describes the state of existing of space as emptiness, śūnyatā. While the relatively few stanzas we have from the Book of Dzyan do not explicitly mention emptiness, their use of Mahāyāna Buddhist terminology would indicate that it is part of their system. It is basic to Mahāyāna Buddhism. Note that for “space” the Mokṣopāya here uses the generic “kha,” and that this is before the manifestation of the element “space” (or “ether”), ākāśa.
Mokṣopāya verse 12, describing the principle of self-consciousness (ahaṃkāra), says that as the motion (spanda) of consciousness (cit) it is wind (marut). Again, this is before the manifestation of the element wind or air. So perhaps this wind is the fohat of the Book of Dzyan, the whirlwind that hardens the atoms.
Mokṣopāya verse 11 in fact speaks of śakti (“power”), used by T. Subba Row as a synonym of fohat, and the concluding Mokṣopāya verse 32 makes it very clear that the power of consciousness, citi-śakti, is responsible for the manifestation of the worlds. This is very much like fohat as found in the Book of Dzyan.
verse 2: The “[Just as] . . . [so]” are added by me following the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha commentator Ānanda-bodhendra’s yathā . . . tathā. The word tāvat is glossed by the Mokṣopāya commentator Bhāskara-kaṇṭha as sākalya, “entirety,” which I have followed. The translation by Samvid in The Vision and the Way of Vasiṣṭha (p. 141, no. 406) takes the word tāvat as “first,” which is equally plausible.
verses 3-4: The word kacana, which I have translated as the “radiance (that is manifestation),” is not in the dictionaries, neither the Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionaries Śabdakalpadrumaḥ (5 vols.) and Vācaspatyam (6 vols.), nor in the Sanskrit-English dictionaries by Monier Monier-Williams and by Vaman Shivaram Apte (publication of the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles has not yet progressed to the letter “ka”). It is glossed in the Mokṣopāya-ṭīkā here as sphuraṇa. Sphuraṇa can mean vibration or pulsation, radiance or shining, emanation or manifestation, etc. In the Mokṣopāya-ṭīkā, sphuraṇa and its cognates usually gloss words meaning manifestation (e.g., bhāti, avabhāsate, udeti, bhānam, bhāsanam, pratibhānam, etc.). Nonetheless, the primary meaning of kacana seems to be radiance or shining. Two meanings of the root kac are given in the Pāṇinīya-dhātu-pāṭha: bandhana, “binding” (1.181), and dīpti, “shining” (1.182). Another meaning is given elsewhere: rava, “sounding.” The relevant one here is obviously dīpti, “shining.” This meaning of kacana can be seen in the following verses:
saṃvid-ākāśa-kacanam idaṃ bhāti jagattayā |
“This radiance of the space of consciousness appears as the world.” (Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, section 6.2, chapter 171, verse 1)
yathā maṇiḥ prakacati svabhāsā’vyatiriktayā |
ātmano ’nanyayā sṛṣṭyā cid-vyoma kacitaṃ tathā ||
“Just as a jewel shines by its own light not separate from it, so the space of consciousness has radiated as creation not other than itself.” (Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, section 6.2, chapter 171, verse 28)
yaś cin-maṇiḥ prakacati prati-deha-samudgake |
“That jewel of consciousness shines in each ‘casket’ of body.” (Laghu-Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, section 3, chapter 1, verse 79)
The word sattā is from the present participle sat, “being,” with the suffix tā, “-ness.” So it is literally “beingness,” or “state of being,” “state of existing.” It has usually been translated simply as “existence” or “being.” It is a technical term. To show this, and to distinguish it from other words for being or existence, I have translated it as “state of existing.”
The extant manuscript of Bhāskara-kaṇṭha’s Mokṣopāya-ṭīkā commentary is missing folios here after the first three and a half verses, so we do not have his commentary for the rest of the verses of this chapter.
verse 5: The word kalana, which I have translated as “the conceiving,” is used in the Mokṣopāya in a meaning that is not given in the dictionaries. Its basic meaning, when found at the end of a compound (as it is here), is given in Vaman Shivaram Apte’s Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary as “causing, effecting.” It is here glossed by the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha commentator Ānanda-bodhendra as anusaṃdhāna, which in a related meaning is “planning, arranging, getting ready” (Apte, meaning no. 3). But in Advaita Vedānta, which this commentator follows, anusaṃdhāna usually means “inquiring into, examination, investigation, contemplation” (e.g., as the function of the citta in Sureśvara’s Pañcīkaraṇa-vārttika, verse 34; cp. Śaṅkarācārya’s Upadeśa-pañcaka, verse 1: bhava-sukhe doṣo ’nusaṃdhīyatām, translated by Y. Subrahmanya Sarma as “ponder deeply about the evil consequences of worldly pleasures”). He probably intends it as “contemplating.” At Yoga-vāsiṣṭha 3.13.2-4, where kalana is used five times, Ānanda-bodhendra glosses it as kalpana. Kalpana, like these and many other Sanskrit words, has multiple meanings, including “construction, fabrication, the forming, fashioning, making,” etc., often in the sense of “thought construction, forming an image in the mind, imagination,” etc. This appears to correctly reflect the meaning of kalana as found in the Mokṣopāya, as we may deduce by looking at its usage of the closely related term kalanā. Kalanā is described in Mokṣopāya 4.12.5 as saṅkalpa-rūpa, “in the form of saṃkalpa,” and is glossed in extant portions of Bhāskara-kaṇṭha’s commentary as saṃkalpa at least twice (1.15.7, 4.10.47). Saṃkalpa, too, has multiple meanings, including “thought, conceptual thought, conception, imagination, will, resolve,” etc. Here kalanā and saṃkalpa apparently refer to the formative thought or creative thought that forms or creates everything in the universe. I have used “creative thought” for saṃkalpa, and “conception” for kalanā. The feminine noun kalanā would refer to a particular conception, while the neuter noun kalana, which we have here, would be the act of conceiving. Hence, I have translated kalana as “the conceiving.” It would also have the sense of “the forming in thought.”
verse 6: We have in English few ways to distinguish cit, cetas, cetana, saṃvid, saṃvedana, etc., all meaning consciousness in some way.
*[functioning] consciousness (cetana) [as opposed to pure consciousness, cin-mātra]: Cetana as being lower is clearly distinguished from the ultimate cit (cin-mātra) at Mokṣopāya 3.7.2-14.
verse 8: The first word of this verse, svatā (joined with eka making svataika-), is apparently used in a meaning that is not recorded in the dictionaries. It is sva, “self, own,” plus the suffix tā, “-ness,” the state or condition of being something, in this case, itself. Svatā is found in a similar compound at Mokṣopāya (and Yoga-vāsiṣṭha) 3.3.14, svatodayaḥ, where Bhāskara-kaṇṭha glosses svatā as svabhāva, “inherent nature” (svatayā svabhāvena). Bhāskara-kaṇṭha again uses svatā (in the instrumental case, svatayā) at Mokṣopāya 4.31.32 to explain cin-mātra-svarūpe, the “essential nature of pure consciousness.” Svarūpa (“essential nature”) is practically synonymous with svabhāva (“inherent nature”). I have followed Bhāskara-kaṇṭha in understanding svatā in this way, and have translated svatā as “its own nature.”
While vastu can mean a “thing” in general, there is good reason to think that it is here used in its more specific meaning of “substance.” This is especially so when we find it in the compound, vastu-svabhāvena, “through the inherent nature of the substance,” as we have here. On this, see the section titled “Consciousness as a ‘Substance’,” in Jürgen Hanneder’s 2006 book, Studies on the Mokṣopāya, pp. 188-192. B. L. Atreya, too, in The Philosophy of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, p. 572, understands that “the Absolute Reality . . . is a distinctionless, homogeneous Substance.” Likewise, Vihāri-lāla Mitra here translated vastu as the “divine essence,” adding in parentheses, “as the fallacy of the snake, depends on the substance of the rope” (vol. 1, p. 278). This, of course, is the famous example of where the illusion of the world arises on the basis of the real brahman, like the illusion of a snake arises on the basis of a real rope, an actual substance.
I understand tanvas (feminine nominative plural of tanū, “body, self”) to refer the “individual souls” (jīva) or “self” (ātman) spoken of in the previous verse. So I have taken it in the sense of its usage as a pronoun, “selves,” rather than as the noun, “bodies.”
verse 12: The word ahaṃkāra, literally “I-maker,” is well known as a major principle in the Sāṃkhya worldview. It has often been translated as “ego” or “egoism” or “egotism.” However, as it there applies to both a person and the cosmos, I have chosen to translate it as “[the principle of] self-consciousness” in my unfinished translation of the Sāṃkhya-kārikā. Here in this chapter of the Mokṣopāya, where it is clearly a cosmic principle, it is all more appropriate to translate it as “self-consciousness.”
The word spanda means “pulsation, vibration, motion, movement.” In this text, it is often associated with wind. See, for example, Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, section 6.2, chapter 84, verse 3, translated by Samvid, The Vision and the Way of Vasiṣṭha, p. 299, no. 1130:
yathaikaṃ pavana-spandam ekam auṣṇyānalau yathā |
cin-mātraṃ spanda-śaktiś ca tathaivaikātma sarvadā ||
“As wind and its motion are the same and as fire and its heat are identical, even so, mere Consciousness and its power of movement are always identical in essence.”
While we may speak of the pulsation or vibration of consciousness, we must speak of the motion or movement of wind. Since wind is mentioned here in verse 12, I have translated spanda as “motion.”
verse 17: *[of the fourteen worlds]: The Yoga-vāsiṣṭha commentator Ānanda-bodhendra says: caturdaśa-bhuvana-bhedāc caturdaśa-vidhaṃ prāṇi-jālaṃ, “the fourteenfold group of living beings due to the division of the fourteen worlds,” which makes perfect sense here.
*[in the egg of Brahmā]: This is suggested by the following jagaj-jaṭhara, “the womb of the world.”
The word āvalita is not found in Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary, and is found in Vaman Shivaram Apte’s Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary only as “slightly turned” (from the Kādambarī), which is not relevant here. In the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha it is in the compound āvalitāntaram rather than āvalitāmbaram, as we have here in the Mokṣopāya. So Ānanda-bodhendra’s gloss, khena vyāptāntarālam, “that whose interior is pervaded by space,” does not really help us. Samvid translates āvalitāntaram in the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha verse as “moving all around the interior” (p. 144, no. 419), which also does not help us. We must now search for other occurrences of āvalita in the Mokṣopāya, where the meaning may be clearer, and in Bhāskara-kaṇṭha’s commentary thereon.
Two occurrences where the word is clearly āvalita (and not just valita preceded by a word ending in ā) can be found in the published volumes of the Mokṣopāya with the extant portions of Bhāskara-kaṇṭha’s Mokṣopāya-ṭīkā thereon, sections one through four, edited by Walter Slaje (1993-2002). These can now be easily searched, thanks to the electronic file of them that Dr. Slaje made available online through GRETIL (Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages). The first of these is in Mokṣopāya 1.19.46 (= Yoga-vāsiṣṭha 1.20.43), where we find āvalitaṃ gunaiḥ. Here the meaning is not entirely clear. In form, āvalita is a past passive participle, usually translated by English words ending in “-ed.” This occurrence tells us only that youth is “āvalita by/with good qualities.” It could be endowed (with), accompanied (by), surrounded (by), etc.
In the second occurrence, the meaning is clear. In Mokṣopāya 4.11.63 (= Yoga-vāsiṣṭha 4.11.64) āvalita clearly means “enclosed,” like the third meaning of valita (without the prefix “ā”) listed by Apte, “surrounded, enclosed.” Here is the verse:
yadaiva cittaṃ kalitam akalena kilātmanā |
kośa-kīṭavad ātmāyam anenāvalitas tadā ||
“When the mind (citta) is formed in thought (kalitam) by the partless self (ātman), this self is then enclosed (āvalita) by it like a pupa in a cocoon.”
Bhāskara-kaṇṭha here glosses āvalita with āvṛta, “covered, concealed, enclosed, surrounded,” giving the expected meaning.
For the compound āvalitāmbaram, since it begins with a past passive participle, we expect a bahuvrīhi compound such as: “that by which space is enclosed.” That which encloses space is the egg of Brahmā. However, this compound here appears to be an adjective describing the fourteenfold class of beings. They do not enclose space; they are enclosed by space inside the egg of Brahmā. So this meaning is not appropriate. Since we now know that āvalita means the same as valita in its meaning of “surrounded, enclosed,” we may search for the compound valitāmbaram. At Mokṣopāya 4.26.28 (= Yoga-vāsiṣṭha 4.26.29) we find valanā-valitāmbaram. There, valitāmbaram is glossed by Bhāskara-kaṇṭha as tābhiḥ valitaṃ vṛttam ambaraṃ yasya tat, “that whose space is surrounded, i.e., encircled, by those.” It is a battle scene, between the gods and the demons. It is their individual space that is surrounded by moving armies. This shows us how the compound āvalitāmbaram is to be understood here in verse 17, “whose space is enclosed.” It is apparently enclosed in the egg of Brahmā.
The word yantra, “instrument” (also “machine”), here presumably refers, if not to the beings themselves, to their bodies, minds, and faculties. The blood, flesh, and bones that compose the body are referred to as instruments, yantra, at Mokṣopāya 1.32.32 (= Yoga-vāsiṣṭha 1.33.35). At Mokṣopāya (and Yoga-vāsiṣṭha) 2.19.26 the faculties of action are compared to instruments (yantravat). Verse 27 speaks of the instrument of the mind (mano-yantra).
verse 20: *[its self-]experience: For the self-experience of consciousness, see Mokṣopāya 3.10.17 and its commentary by Bhāskara-kaṇṭha (same verse number in Yoga-vāsiṣṭha). See also the reference to “the inner self-experience of consciousness” from Mokṣopāya 6.230.10 given by Jürgen Hanneder, Studies on the Mokṣopāya, p. 188.
verse 22: *that [principle of self-consciousness, which although actually] non-existing is as if existing: For this idea, see verse 11.
verse 24: The Sanskrit phrase, sa-saugandha-tanmātratvaṃ, “that which has the state of the subtle element of good smell,” is a rather cumbrous way of saying “the subtle element of smell.” But it fits the meter.
verses 29, 31: The translation of the verb paśyati as “picture” is because, when creating in thought, things are “pictured,” not “observed.”
By David Reigle on June 18, 2012 at 5:00 am
The “Book of Dzyan,” from which a number of stanzas on cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis are given in The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, purports to give the original genesis account possessed by humanity (see: “The Secret Doctrine-Original Genesis and the Wisdom Tradition”). The other genesis accounts found in the world are regarded as more or less modified copies of this original, going back to what was described as the “Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World.” We learn that the genesis account found in the latter and explained in “Book of Dzyan” is the original account of cosmogony, and that this is so because it is based on direct knowledge. It is not a story made up to explain what is commonly considered to be unknowable. It may be called a creation story, but not in the usual sense.
The category of “creation stories” is widely used for cosmogony accounts from traditional sources. It is a category in which the cosmogony account from the “Book of Dzyan” may usefully be placed. This cosmogony account, however, is not a story resulting from the speculations of finite or even primitive human minds. It is supposed to be a record of observation. How, one may wonder, can creation be observed when there is at that time no one to observe it? As we learn from a hitherto secret commentary, it was observed by spiritually advanced seers when entranced in states of samādhi, through a spiritual sight that can see into the past (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 289):
“Extracts from a private commentary, hitherto secret:
(xvii) “The Initial Existence in the first twilight of the Mahā-Manvantara [after the Mahā-Pralaya that follows every age of Brahmā] is a conscious spiritual quality. In the manifested worlds [solar systems] it is, in its objective subjectivity, like the film from a Divine Breath to the gaze of the entranced seer. It spreads as it issues from Laya throughout infinity as a colorless spiritual fluid. It is on the seventh plane, and in its seventh state in our planetary world.”
The cosmogony account from the “Book of Dzyan” is not a creation story in the usual sense also because it does not teach “creation” as normally understood in the West. Like other cosmogony accounts found in the sacred texts of India, it teaches manifestation or emanation rather than creation. The world arises from something; it cannot be created out of nothing. So when we here speak of “creation,” it must be understood in that sense. That sense was lost in the West when the original account of cosmogony was incorporated into systems that postulate a God who can create something out of nothing.
According to The Secret Doctrine, the original account of cosmogony was recorded in the language of symbols. Because a symbol can express things much more concisely than words can, this original account made only a very small book. This brief account of cosmogony written in symbol language is said to be the original source of the other genesis accounts found in the world (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. xliii):
“The ‘very old Book’ is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah di-Tseniuthah but even the Sepher Yetzirah, the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-King, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Purāṇas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume.”
The stanzas from the “Book of Dzyan” given in The Secret Doctrine do not come directly from that one small parent volume, the “Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World,” but rather from the first of fourteen volumes of secret commentaries written on it (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 422). Thus, these stanzas must to some extent adopt a particular set of terminology, which in turn has become associated with a particular system of thought. It may be that there are other secret or now lost commentaries, which adopt a different set of terminology associated with a different system of thought, but which are also valid ways of interpreting the original account. Perhaps the lost Ṣaṣṭi-tantra by Kapila, founder of the ancient Sāṃkhya system, is an example of such a text. We will try to be aware of such possibilities as we proceed in this series of investigations of creation stories.
By David Reigle on June 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm
The Āryabhaṭīya was not as well known in old India as the Sūrya-siddhānta. In modern times, however, it has attracted more attention than any other Sanskrit text on astronomy. This is because, among other things, as far back as the year 499 C.E. it taught the rotation of the earth on its axis. Āryabhaṭa made no claim to have discovered this. Rather, he simply included it in a matter-of-fact manner in his brief treatise, which purports to present the system of astronomy taught by Brahmā. Despite the authority of this ancient system, other famous Indian astronomers (including Varāha-mihira and Brahmagupta) were quick to criticize Āryabhaṭa for teaching the rotation of the earth on its axis. Āryabhaṭa also gave another teaching, anomalous in Indian tradition, which he was criticized for. Rather than the standard 4:3:2:1 ratio for the lengths of the four yugas, he taught that they are of equal length. He gives the overall length of a mahā-yuga the same as everyone else does: 4,320,000 years (chapter 1, verse 3). But the four yugas that comprise it are each 1,080,000 years in length. This gives us another method of calculation to work with. It is noteworthy that equal length yugas are also found in the Buddhist Kālacakra astronomy.
The Āryabhaṭīya and the Sūrya-siddhānta agree fully on the starting point of the present kali-yuga (3102 B.C.E.), and they agree in general that the length of a kalpa or day of Brahmā is more than four billion years, while we are about two billion years into this at present. But there are some differences. The Āryabhaṭīya says in chapter 1, verse 5 (translated by Kripa Shankar Shukla, 1976): “A day of Brahmā (or a Kalpa) is equal to (a period of) 14 Manus, and (the period of one) Manu is equal to 72 yugas. Since Thursday, the beginning of the current Kalpa, 6 Manus, 27 yugas and 3 quarter yugas had elapsed before the beginning of the current Kaliyuga (lit. before Bhārata).” This means that a kalpa is 14 times 72 making 1008 yugas. Thus, unlike in the Sūrya-siddhānta where a kalpa is 1000 yugas or 4,320,000,000 years, in the Āryabhaṭīya a kalpa is 4,354,560,000 years. The period of a manu, consisting of 72 yugas (rather than 71 yugas as in the Sūrya-siddhānta), is 311,040,000 years. Up to the beginning of the present kali-yuga, we have:
6 manus (311,040,000) equals 1,866,240,000 years, plus
27 yugas (4,320,000) equals 116,640,000 years, plus
3 quarter yugas (1,080,000) equals 3,240,000 years, yields
As stated in an earlier post, the Sūrya-siddhānta gives the figure 1,953,720,000 years from the beginning of the epoch (17,064,000 years after the beginning of the kalpa) to the end of the last kṛta-yuga. Up to the beginning of the present kali-yuga we would have to add to this the 1,296,000 years of the tretā-yuga and the 864,000 years of the dvāpara-yuga. This yields 1,955,880,000 years. So while the number of years that have elapsed in our world-period is in the same general range of two billion years, the specific numbers differ. The information given in this verse also tells us the number of years that have elapsed of our current or Vaivasvata manvantara up to the beginning of the present kali-yuga: 116,640,000 (27 times 4,320,000) plus 3,240,000 (3 times 1,080,000) equals 119,880,000 years. The information given in the Sūrya-siddhānta provides a little different result for this: 116,640,000 (27 times 4,320,000) plus 3,888,000 (1,728,000 + 1,296,000 + 864,000) equals 120,528,000 years. Perhaps a lost work by Āryabhaṭa, known to have once existed, would shed light on the reasons for these differences.
The Āryabhaṭīya is a brief and somewhat cryptic text, consisting of only 108 verses plus its 10 (or 13) verse summary given at the beginning. The extant Sūrya-siddhānta consists of 500 verses. As noted earlier, the old Sūrya-siddhānta (as summarized in the Pañcasiddhāntikā) was determined to have used the astronomical constants found in a lost work by Āryabhaṭa. Prabodh Chandra Sengupta showed the close agreement of the astronomical constants used in the old Sūrya-siddhānta with those given in Brahmagupta’s Khaṇḍa-khādyaka, which had been published in 1925. The source of the Khaṇḍa-khādyaka’s astronomical constants, as shown by Sengupta, is a lost work by Āryabhaṭa (“Aryabhata’s Lost Work,” Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society, vol. 22, 1930, pp. 115-120). This was confirmed by the discovery of the Mahābhāskarīya (written by an earlier Bhāskara than the author of the famous Siddhānta-śiromaṇi), announced by Bibhutibhusan Datta (“The Two Bhāskaras,” Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. 6, 1930, pp. 727-736), and first published in 1945 in the Ānandāśrama Sanskrit Series, no. 126. It gives in its chapter seven the astronomical constants of the two different systems used by Āryabhaṭa: those of the day reckoned from sunrise, used in his Āryabhaṭīya, and those of the day reckoned from midnight, used in his now lost work. Strangely, it is these latter astronomical constants that were used in the old and now lost version of the Sūrya-siddhānta.
Like with the Sūrya-siddhānta, there are at present three complete English translations of the Āryabhaṭīya. The first is “The Aryabhatiyam,” Translation by P. C. Sengupta, Journal of the Department of Letters, University of Calcutta, vol. 16, 1927, pp. 1-56, also published as a separate offprint. Much supplemental material was published in separate articles by Sengupta; e.g., “Aryabhata: The Father of Indian Epicyclic Astronomy” (op. cit., vol. 18, 1928, pp. 1-56), and “Greek and Hindu Methods in Spherical Astronomy” (op. cit., vol. 21, 1931, pp. 1-25). The second translation is The Āryabhaṭīya of Āryabhaṭa, Translated with Notes by Walter Eugene Clark, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1930. However, Clark’s translation had been done about five years before its publication, with his student Baidyanath Sastri, and could not utilize Sengupta’s translation (see Preface, p. xvii). Clark describes his translation made with Sastri as “a preliminary study based on inadequate material,” adding that: “Of several passages no translation has been given or only a tentative translation has been suggested” (p. vii). The third translation is Āryabhaṭīya of Āryabhaṭa, Critically edited with Introduction, English Translation, Notes, Comments and Indexes, by Kripa Shankar Shukla in collaboration with K. V. Sarma, New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, 1976. This translation is quite the most definitive, due in no small measure to the fact that, in the interim, Bhāskara I’s three expository works on the Āryabhaṭīya became available: the Mahā-bhāskarīya, the Laghu-bhāskarīya, and Bhāskara’s direct commentary on the Āryabhaṭīya. Kripa Shankar Shukla writes in his Introduction to the Laghu-bhāskarīya (1963, p. xxiv): “In the absence of the works of Bhāskara I, many a passage in the Āryabhaṭīya of Āryabhaṭa I would have remained obscure to us.”
The Sanskrit text of the Āryabhaṭīya was first published in 1874, along with the commentary by Parameśvara (called Paramādīśvara on the title page), edited by H. Kern (Leiden: E. J. Brill). This edition was admittedly based on inadequate manuscript material (Preface, p. v: “This first edition of the Āryabhaṭīya . . . is mainly based upon two manuscripts”; p. xi: “It will be understood that with the scanty, however valuable, materials at my disposal, I could not attempt to constitute the text such as the author published it.”). Nonetheless, it made the text available. The Āryabhaṭīya was then edited by K. Sāmbaśiva Śāstrī with the commentary by Nīlakaṇṭha-somasutvan, published in the Trivandrum Sanskrit Series, no. 101, 1930, and no. 110, 1931, with the third volume edited by Śūranāḍ Kuñjan Pillai, no. 185, 1957. Then followed an edition in 1966 by S. V. Sohoni with a modern Sanskrit commentary and Hindi commentary, both by Baladeva Mishra (Patna, Bihar Research Society). A critical edition of the Sanskrit text of the Āryabhaṭīya, prepared by K. V. Sarma, accompanied the 1976 English translation by Kripa Shankar Shukla listed above. Unlike the Sūrya-siddhānta, the text of the Āryabhaṭīya seems to be well established (Introduction, p. lxxiii: “The collation of the manuscripts did not reveal many significant variations in the text.”). Two more volumes were published along with this 1976 volume, providing Sanskrit editions of important commentaries. One is the Āryabhaṭīya with the commentary of Bhāskara I and Someśvara, edited by Kripa Shankar Shukla (New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, 1976). The other is the Āryabhaṭīya with the commentary of Sūryadeva Yajvan, edited by K. V. Sarma (New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, 1976).
By David Reigle on May 30, 2012 at 2:47 am
While awaiting the arrival of material from a Tirukkanda Panchanga held by the Adyar Library, all my attempts to arrive at the needed eighteen million years figure have failed, whether using the 1:2:3:4 ratio or the 1:2:3:4:5:6:7 ratio. At the same time, I have found no hint of anything but the traditional figures in any of the pañcāṅga material that I have. The 18,618,725 or 18,618,728 years figure that we seek is beginning to look suspiciously like a mistaken transcription from the Tirukkanda Panchanga, or possibly a misprint in it.
A traditional pañcāṅga may give the length of a manvantara, which as stated earlier is 306,720,000 years (before the addition of the 1,728,000 years sandhi period at the end). It may give the elapsed years of the current or Vaivasvata manvantara, which as stated earlier is 120,532,986 years up to the year 1884 C.E. It may then give the number of years still remaining in the current or Vaivasvata manvantara, which in the year 1884 C.E. would be 186,187,014 years (again not counting the 1,728,000 years sandhi period at the end of the manvantara). If one of the last three digits was mistakenly omitted from this figure when it was transcribed from the Tirukkanda Panchanga (or even if there was a misprint in that issue of the Tirukkanda Panchanga), we would have 18,618,701 or 18,618,704 or 18,618,714, suspiciously like the 18,618,725 or 18,618,728 years figure that we seek.
Background information on what must be the Tirukkanda Panchanga, although it is not called that, may be found in Sankar Balakrishna Dikshit’s book, Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra, vol. 2, pp. 181-182, and 285-286 (available online, http://www.scribd.com/doc/76935732/Bharatiya-Jyotish-Sastra-2). It is there called the Dṛggaṇita Pañcāṅga, by Cintāmaṇi Raghunāthācārya. It began being published in Śaka 1791, or 1869 C.E.
By David Reigle on May 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm
For those who may not have easy access to all the relevant Indian texts, here is an article that gives the teaching on the yugas and kalpas as found in the Purāṇas, in comparison with that found in the Manu-Smṛti (The Laws of Manu), the epic Mahābhārata, and Sanskrit astronomical treatises (Jyotiṣa Siddhāntas) such as the Sūrya-siddhānta. The article is titled, “The Purāṇic Theory of the Yugas and Kalpas—A Study,” by Anand Swarup Gupta, published in Purāṇa [Half-yearly Bulletin of the Purāṇa Department, All-India Kashiraj Trust, Varanasi], vol. 11, no. 2, July 1969, pp. 304-323. It also includes the teaching on the manvantaras. At the end it gives the geological time scale taken from Principles of Physical Geology, by Arthur Holmes, originally published in 1944. For the link I have titled the file, Yugas and Kalpas – Puranic Theory of.
By David Reigle on May 25, 2012 at 4:47 am
In the book, O Lanoo! The Secret Doctrine Unveiled (Findhorn Press, 1999), Harvey Tordoff has given to us what Tibetan lamas give to their students. He has done this for the Book of Dzyan. He has taken the stanzas of the Book of Dzyan as translated into English by H. P. Blavatsky and put them into modern English language. The language of the Tibetan scriptures, precisely translated from Sanskrit originals, is largely incomprehensible even to Tibetan monks, let alone to the Tibetan public. So these texts need to be re-stated in comprehensible Tibetan. This is what Tibetan lamas have done over the centuries. This is what Harvey has done for the Book of Dzyan, re-stating its stanzas in comprehensible English.
To put a text into more comprehensible language is quite different from simplifying the text. Neither Tibetan lamas nor Harvey in their re-statements have consciously undertaken simplifications of the text. On the contrary, it is clear that Harvey, like a Tibetan lama, has made an in-depth study of the text in order to be able to re-state its ideas accurately. Any re-statement necessarily involves a certain amount of paraphrasing and interpretation. For example, in stanza 5, verse 2, “The Dzyu becomes Fohat” is paraphrased as “Divine Thought, now manifesting as dynamic creative energy.” Even direct translation involves interpretation.
Re-statements by lamas and others also often include amplification and added explanations. Sometimes these are meant to fill in information found elsewhere in the text. For example, stanza 6, verse 5, says briefly: “At the fourth, the sons are told to create their images. One third refuses.” Background information to this is filled in by Harvey, and the verse is given by him as: “In each of the seven Great Ages of Planet Earth there are seven Races of Man. In the first three Races Man, like Earth, was not yet solid; in this, the fourth Great Age, the Spirit of Man had to clothe itself in Matter; this was the Fall: Not the Fall of Man into sin but the Fall of Spirit into Matter. The Beings who developed in the first three Great Ages had now to experience the world of Matter, and though there were those Creative Spirits who accepted physical incarnation in these hardening bodies, one-third refused.”
Sometimes these additions are based on insights of the writer. A probable example of this is the helpful phrase added to stanza 2, verse 1: “as the elements of hydrogen and oxygen rest in water,” after the statement: “In the unknowable Darkness of absolute perfection the purified Soul of Man rested with your Creators in the bliss of non-being.”
More often these added explanations are based on traditional commentaries. In this book, this may mean an old commentary or catechism quoted by HPB in her commentary on the verse. An example of this is the sentence added to stanza 5, verse 4, not forming part of that verse in the Book of Dzyan: “But even though you see many lights in the sky, and the many lights of Human Souls, perhaps you can sense that there is but one flame.” This is based on a quotation from “the Catechism” given in HPB’s commentary on this verse: “Lift thy head, oh Lanoo; dost thou see one, or countless lights above thee, burning in the dark midnight sky?” “I sense one Flame, oh Gurudeva, I see countless undetached sparks shining in it.”
This may also mean drawing on HPB’s own commentary. An example of this is the phrase added to stanza 7, verse 5, also not forming part of that verse in the Book of Dzyan: “but seek not the ‘missing link’, for while Man and beast have much in common yet Man is not descended from the ape.” This, of course, is based on explanations and statements made many times by HPB in The Secret Doctrine.
Very much the same things are seen in the expository works written by Tibetan lamas. They, too, when re-stating the original text frequently bring in additional explanations. These may come from their knowledge of the text as a whole, their knowledge of its system of thought as a whole, their own personal insights, comments that they have heard from their own teachers, and traditional commentaries written on the text. All are intended to make the original text, whether the words of the Buddha or the words of an Indian teacher, comprehensible to their Tibetan audience. These words are often not comprehensible as they are found in the original texts.
The words of the Buddha, and also the words of the Indian treatises on them, are regarded by Tibetan Buddhists as being sacred. They could not be altered, and had to be preserved faithfully. Therefore, rules were made and followed for the accurate and literal translation of the original Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan. This resulted in an accuracy of translation unparalleled anywhere in the world for an entire body of texts, the Kangyur and Tengyur forming the Tibetan Buddhist canon.
Standardized translation equivalents were used for the technical terms, so that, for example, samādhi is always ting nge ‘dzin, and can always be distinguished from dhyāna, bsam gtan. This is quite unlike in English, where concentration, or meditative absorption, or meditative stabilization, or other such terms, can be and are used for either of these. This makes it difficult to follow the instructions given in texts translated by different translators on the Kālacakra six-branched yoga, in which dhyāna is the second branch and samādhi is the sixth branch. One translator uses one term for the second branch, while another translator uses the same term for the sixth branch.
Even the Sanskrit word order was mostly retained in the Tibetan translations. This accuracy resulted in the faithful preservation of the sacred words of the original texts. At the same time, this very accuracy made these texts largely incomprehensible to native Tibetan speakers without special study. That is why Tibetan lamas would re-state these texts in more comprehensible language for their students. Thus we find that the original Indian texts in their accurate Tibetan translations are normally studied by Tibetans through native Tibetan re-statements of them included in native Tibetan commentaries on them.
It is practically certain that the translation of the Book of Dzyan into Tibetan from the earlier Sanskrit, itself apparently translated from the still earlier Senzar, followed the same rules for accuracy. We are in the same situation as the Tibetans were; for them the sacred words had to be preserved unaltered. It is crucial that the initial translation, whether into Tibetan or into English, be as literally accurate as possible. We cannot afford to allow personal interpretations to enter in at this stage of the transmission. But this means that a re-statement of the text in more comprehensible language will inevitably be needed. Harvey Tordoff has provided this for us in O Lanoo! The Secret Doctrine Unveiled.
When an original language text of the Book of Dzyan is discovered, which it is the goal of this blog to prepare for, this process will start all over again. We will then be in a position to make a more literally accurate translation, and having its original terms will clarify many points. But the new translation is likely to be, if anything, even less comprehensible overall than HPB’s pioneering translation. Hers has a poetic quality that is unlikely to be found in a more literally accurate translation. There will be all the more need for making this text accessible in a comprehensible English version. In the meantime, new Sanskrit and Tibetan texts are being published nearly every month, allowing new insights into the old and often little understood ideas found in the Book of Dzyan.
By David Reigle on May 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm
No one has yet posted a solution to the riddle of the eighteen million years age of physical humanity versus the one hundred and twenty million years age of our current humanity. There seems to be no obvious explanation of why the Tirukkanda Panchanga gave the eighteen million years age for the current Vaivasvata manvantara, quoted in full agreement in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 2, pp. 68-69), while according to all known sources the age of the Vaivasvata manvantara should be one hundred and twenty million years. The answer to this may have been given by H. P. Blavatsky in a fragmentary article published posthumously as “On Cosmic Cycles, Manvantaras, and Rounds” (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 301-306), if anyone who is good at numbers can figure it out.
In this article, HPB writes (p. 302): “The astrological work states that: — 3. ‘The number of years that elapsed since the beginning of Vaivasvata Manvantara — Equals 18,618,725 years.’” This very same statement is made in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 2, pp. 68-69), where it is taken from the Tirukkanda Panchanga (the one for the kali yuga year 4986; see SD vol. 2, p. 51). So obviously “the astrological work” referred to in HPB’s fragmentary article is the Tirukkanda Panchanga. The calculations that she gives in this article may therefore pertain to how the eighteen million years figure is obtained. We should here recall that, for HPB, this figure is the age of humanity “on our planet D, in the present Round” (p. 302). In the Tirukkanda Panchanga, this figure is apparently given for the age of the Vaivasvata manvantara as a whole, an age that from other sources should be one hundred and twenty million years. I am hoping that someone who is good at numbers can figure this out.
In a small book that Daniel Caldwell called my attention to, Occult Chronology, by James Arther (Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1943; http://blavatskyarchives.com/theosophypdfs/early_theosophical_publications_chrono.htm; http://hpb.narod.ru/Occult_Chronology.htm), the author refers to the Tirukkanda Panchanga and says (near the end of the book, no page number): “The Adyar Library is not in possession of a copy, and I have not yet been able to secure one. If anybody is the fortunate possessor of, or can lay his hand on, a copy, it would be greatly appreciated if he would make the Adyar Library the happy recipient of it.” This may have happened. I contacted the Adyar Library and learned from Prof. C. A. Shinde that although the Adyar library does not have the particular issue that HPB used, for kali yuga 4986 or 1884-1885 C.E., it does have several previous years of the Tirukkanda Panchanga, 1870-1881. These should all give the same epochs that the 1884-1885 issue gives. I have requested material from these. When it arrives, it may (or may not) be possible to determine how the Tirukkanda Panchanga arrived at its eighteen million years age of the Vaivasvata manvantara.
The ratio and calculations given by HPB in the fragmentary article referred to above are highly unusual, and do not fit in with other things she gave. Nonetheless, no one has yet been able to figure out how the eighteen million year figure was derived by the normal calculations, using the ratio 1:2:3:4. So perhaps further efforts using the ratio 1:2:3:4:5:6:7 will solve this riddle. Right now, the eighteen million years age of humanity is based only on an occult claim, apparently supported by reference to a once used calendar/almanac, the Tirukkanda Panchanga. But unless we can determine how the Tirukkanda Panchanga arrived at this figure, its evidence is little more than one more unverifiable claim. I have not found any other reference in any other Hindu text supporting this age for the Vaivasvata manvantara.
By David Reigle on May 15, 2012 at 6:09 am
The Sūrya-siddhānta is by far the most widely used Sanskrit text on astronomy. It has been held in great esteem in India. Its opening verses say that an incarnation of the sun taught it to the great asura named Maya at the end of the last kṛta-yuga, or age of perfection. According to the information given in its first chapter on the lengths of the yugas and how many of these ages have passed in this kalpa or world-period, this would have been more than two million years ago. If so, the Sūrya-siddhānta has undergone a lot of change since then. Based solely on what can be seen in the last 1,500 years, material has been deleted from it, material has been added to it, and its arrangement has frequently been altered.
Six verses from the Sūrya-siddhānta that are not found in the now available version (as published with the commentary by Raṅganātha) were quoted by Bhaṭṭotpala in his commentary on Varāha-mihira’s Bṛhat-saṃhitā, chapters 4 and 5. This was first pointed out by Shankar Balakrishna Dikshit in his 1896 Marathi language book, Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra (English translation, vol. 2, 1981, pp. 38-39), where these six verses are quoted and translated. Then, a block of verses after chapter 2, verse 14, of the Sūrya-siddhānta gives the same series of numbers for trigonometry sines that the Āryabhaṭīya gives, and so on. They interrupt an older theory, which resumes in verse 52. Prabodh Chandra Sengupta, who pointed this out in his new Introduction to the 1935 Calcutta reprint of the 1860 Ebenezer Burgess translation (p. xix), therefore thinks that this material was copied from the Āryabhaṭīya and interpolated into the Sūrya-siddhānta. Raṅganātha in his commentary on the Sūrya-siddhānta, completed in 1603 C.E., had centuries earlier pointed out interpolated verses (see Dikshit, op. cit., p. 43). Bimalā Prasāda Siddhānta Sarasvatī’s 1894 or 1896 edition of the Sūrya-siddhānta in Bengali script has twenty-one additional verses in chapter 14 between verses 23 and 24 (see Sengupta, op. cit., p. xxx). David Pingree, who has catalogued all known Sanskrit astronomy manuscripts (Census of the Exact Sciences in Sanskrit, Series A, 5 vols., 1970-1994, unfinished), tells us about the Sūrya-siddhānta that: “Virtually every commentator, however, has rearranged the text, adding and subtracting verses ad libitum” (David Pingree, Jyotiḥśāstra: Astral and Mathematical Literature, 1981, p. 23).
What has shown convincingly that we do not have the original Sūrya-siddhānta intact, and that even its astronomical constants have been somewhat altered, was the publication in 1889 of the Pañcasiddhāntikā by Varāha-mihira (circa 550 C.E.). As its name implies, the Pañca-siddhāntikā is a summary of five (pañca) astronomical treatises (siddhānta), all very old, including the Sūrya-siddhānta. While the summary given in the Pañcasiddhāntikā of the Sūrya-siddhānta shows “that the treatise of that name known to Varāha Mihira agreed with the modern Sūrya Siddhānta in its fundamental features,” yet “we cannot fail to notice that in certain points the teaching of the old Sūrya Siddhānta must have differed from the correspondent doctrines of its modern representative” (G. Thibaut and Sudhākara Dvivedī, The Pañchasiddhāntikā, 1889, reprint 1968, p. xii; on this see pp. xii-xx). These differences appear in the astronomical constants given for the various planets, etc., and the calculations made from them. The astronomical constants found in the older Sūrya-siddhānta as summarized in the Pañcasiddhāntikā differ somewhat from those given in the now extant Sūrya-siddhānta.
The Pañcasiddhāntikā is a karaṇa text, as opposed to a siddhānta text, such as the Sūrya-siddhānta. While a siddhānta gives the full astronomical theory, a karaṇa is a more brief manual for practical use, giving only what is required for making calculations from the latest astronomical epoch in use. Based on this fact, Sudhi Kant Bharadwaj attempted to show that the differences in astronomical constants between the old and the modern Sūrya-siddhānta are due only to the brief karaṇa version abbreviating the numbers given in the full siddhānta version (Sūryasiddhānta: An Astro-Linguistic Study, 1991, pp. 24-33). Thibaut had considered this possibility, and gave reasons for rejecting it in his 1889 “Introduction” (op. cit., pp. xii-xx). Prabodh Chandra Sengupta in his 1935 “Introduction” tabulated the differences between the astronomical constants given in the two versions (op. cit., pp. ix-xii). He showed that the astronomical constants given in the old Sūrya-siddhānta mostly agree with those given in Brahmagupta’s Khaṇḍa-khādyaka (first Sanskrit edition published in 1925). Sengupta showed in a 1930 paper (“Aryabhata’s Lost Work”) that the astronomical constants found in the Khaṇḍa-khādyaka were taken from a lost work by Āryabhaṭa I, author of the Āryabhaṭīya. After the discovery of the Mahābhāskarīya (announced in Bibhutibhusan Datta’s 1930 article, “The Two Bhāskaras”), it was found that these same astronomical constants taken from a lost work by Āryabhaṭa I are preserved in the Mahābhāskarīya, chapter 7 (first Sanskrit edition published in 1945). The agreement with this old set of astronomical constants has convinced most researchers that the astronomical constants given in the old Sūrya-siddhānta accord with a specific system, and are not mere abbreviations of those given in the now extant Sūrya-siddhānta.
In addition to this, Sengupta then described differences in the methods of calculation used in the two versions of the Sūrya-siddhānta (pp. xx-xxvi). He showed that methods used in the modern Sūrya-siddhānta agree with methods used by Āryabhaṭa I and Brahmagupta. This means that someone after the time of Varāha-mihira’s summary of the old Sūrya-siddhānta in the Pañcasiddhāntikā introduced these methods into the Sūrya-siddhānta that we now have. Not only was the modern Sūrya-siddhānta revised by someone, Sengupta believed that Varāha-mihira revised the previous Sūrya-siddhānta. So even the old Sūrya-siddhānta as summarized in the Pañcasiddhāntikā is a revision of a yet older Sūrya-siddhānta. Bina Chatterjee, in her 1970 Sanskrit edition and English translation of Brahmagupta’s Khaṇḍakhādyaka, agreed with Sengupta, and provided further evidence for this, with further charts of comparison (vol. 1, pp. 279-285). Kripa Shankar Shukla did not agree with Sengupta on this particular point, but he agreed that not only the astronomical constants but also the methods vary between the two versions of the Sūrya-siddhānta. He gave another helpful set of charts comparing the two versions, adding variants from the modern version as preserved in two different sets of commentaries, in his English introduction to his 1957 Sanskrit edition of The Sūrya-siddhānta with the Commentary of Paramesvara (pp. 15-27).
The Pañcasiddhāntikā, our sole source on the old version of the Sūrya-siddhānta, was itself long lost. It was recovered from two very faulty manuscripts in the 1889 Sanskrit edition and English translation by G. Thibaut and Sudhākara Dvivedī. So the Sanskrit text as found in the best of these two manuscripts was given alongside a heavily emended text. The extensive and sometimes extreme emendations were justified by the need to make sense of an otherwise partly incomprehensible text. Eighty years later, a new attempt to make sense of this text was made by O. Neugebauer and D. Pingree in their Sanskrit edition and English translation (The Pañcasiddhāntikā of Varāhamihira, 2 vols., 1970, 1971). The few additional manuscripts discovered since the first two were copies of the same faulty exemplars. From these highly respected scholars we expected to get as careful and accurate an edition as could be made from the available materials. But as said about the Neugebauer-Pingree edition by K. V. Sarma in his “Introduction” to yet a third Sanskrit edition and English translation: “Often the emendations are wilder than those of Thibaut-Sudhakar Dvivedi” (Pañcasiddhāntikā of Varāhamihira, trans. by T. S. Kuppanna Sastry, ed. by K. V. Sarma, 1993, p. xviii).
A prime example of the wild and unwarranted emendations to the Pañcasiddhāntikā is its often-quoted verse 4 of chapter 1. Thibaut and Sudhākara Dvivedī emended the word tithi (or tithaḥ) to kṛtaḥ and translated: “The Siddhānta made by Pauliśa is accurate, near to it stands the Siddhānta proclaimed by Romaka; more accurate is the Sāvitra (Saura); the two remaining ones are far from the truth.” Neugebauer and Pingree emended the word tithi (or tithaḥ) to stvatha and translated: “The Pauliśa is accurate; that which was pronounced by Romaka is near it; the Sāvitra (i.e. the Sūryasiddhānta) is more accurate; the remaining two have strayed far away (from the truth).” Thus, through this often-quoted verse, everyone was led to believe that the accuracy of the Paitāmaha-siddhānta and the Vāsiṣṭha-siddhānta was disparaged by Varāha-mihira. But Kuppanna Sastry and Sarma did not emend the word tithi, and translated: “The tithi resulting from the Pauliśa is tolerably accurate and that of the Romaka approximate to that. The tithi of the Saura is very accurate. But that of the remaining two (viz. the Vāsiṣṭha and the Paitāmaha) have slipped far away (from the real).” In other words, it was only the accuracy of their calculation of the tithi or lunar day that was disparaged, not their overall accuracy. Thus, anyone using the Pañcasiddhāntikā today should use only the Kuppanna Sastry-Sarma edition/translation, because the remaining two, the Thibaut-Sudhākara Dvivedī and the Neugebauer-Pingree editions/translations, have strayed far away from the truth.
For the extant Sūrya-siddhānta, only three different English translations have been published so far. All of these are more than a century old. The first of these was made by Rev. Ebenezer Burgess, revised by William Dwight Whitney, and published in 1860. The second of these was made by Bāpū Deva Śāstrī independently of the Burgess translation, and published in 1861. The third of these was made by Bimalā Prasāda Siddhānta Sarasvatī from Sanskrit to Bengali and published in 1894 or 1896, and then translated from Bengali to English and published in 2007. All three translations utilized the commentary by Raṅganātha to interpret the verses of the Sūrya-siddhānta. The Burgess translation was reprinted in Calcutta in 1935, edited by Phanindralal Gangooly. This was again reprinted in India more recently, and is sometimes listed under the name of the editor, even though it is the translation by Burgess. A 2001 book, The Sūryasiddhānta (The Astronomical Principles of the Text), by A. K. Chakravarty, includes a rearranged translation. It has adopted the translation by Burgess.
Sometimes students are inclined to distrust a translation of a Sanskrit text by a Christian missionary, and to trust a translation made by an Indian pandit. The present case, however, is a little different. My impression is that all three translations are good, but the Burgess/Whitney translation is more literally accurate in comparison with the Sanskrit than the other two. Bāpū Deva Śāstrī used a somewhat interpretive style of translation, as was common at that time. The translation by Bimalā Prasāda Siddhānta Sarasvatī is a translation of a translation, so for that reason alone it is less literally accurate in comparison with the Sanskrit. This does not mean, in either case, that their translations are inaccurate. It means that for someone trying to follow the Sanskrit, the Burgess/Whitney translation will be more helpful. The Burgess/Whitney translation also provides extensive notes and examples of calculations, while the other two translations do not.
An example of the difference between the three translations may be seen in chap. 1, verse 3, stating what the asura Maya asked the sun about. He wanted to know the jyotiṣāṃ gati-kāraṇam, the cause (kāraṇam) of the motion (gati) of the heavenly bodies (jyotiṣām). The Burgess/Whitney translation is literally accurate, adding only “namely” to this phrase; thus Maya is “desirous to know . . . the cause, namely, of the motion of the heavenly bodies.” In the Bāpū Deva Śāstrī translation, this phrase is interpreted, and becomes simply “Astronomy”; that is, Maya is “desirous of obtaining . . . knowledge of Astronomy.” In the Bimalā Prasāda Siddhānta Sarasvatī translation of a translation, “cause” becomes transformed into “information”; thus what Maya desires to acquire is knowledge that is complete with “the information about the motion of the heavenly bodies.” The latter two translations give the general idea accurately enough, but the Burgess/Whitney translation gives the exact idea.
Rev. Ebenezer Burgess went to India as a missionary in 1839. He diligently applied himself to the study of Indian astronomy and its primary text, the Sūrya-siddhānta, throughout his years in India, in order to produce a textbook on astronomy in the Marathi language. He writes in his “Introductory Note” to the translation of the Sūrya-siddhānta that: “My first rough draft of the translation and notes was made while I was still in India, with the aid of Brahmans who were familiar with the Sanskrit and well versed in Hindu astronomical science.” When he returned to the United States, he turned it over to William Dwight Whitney, a brilliant linguist and competent Sanskrit scholar. Whitney’s touch is evident throughout, in two ways. First, he made the translation follow the Sanskrit closely; that is, he made it literally accurate. Only few errors have been noted by later scholars and pandits. Second, sharing the prejudices of his time, he made comments in the notes showing the superiority of Western knowledge and the inferiority of Indian knowledge. These did not, however, affect the translation.
The translation by Burgess/Whitney was highly enough regarded in India that it was reprinted by the University of Calcutta in 1935. The “Note” that introduces this reprint says: “Owing to the time, thought and patient diligence that he and his colleagues devoted to the task, this translation stands out as a model of research work in the field of Hindu astronomy.” This reprint included a new 45-page Introduction by eminent Indian scholar of Hindu astronomy, Prabodh Chandra Sengupta. Sengupta there concludes (p. li): “Burgess’s translation, indeed, gives a very clear and complete exposition and discussion of every rule that it contains together with illustrations also.” Moreover, Sengupta adds that “his views about the originality of Hindu astronomy are the sanest.” Sengupta is referring to Burgess’s view that the astronomy of the Sūrya-siddhānta was original to India (see “Concluding Note by the Translator”), in disagreement with Whitney, who thought that astronomy came to India from Greece. The Burgess/Whitney translation was originally published in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 6, 1860, pp. 141-498. This is now available from JSTOR, as part of their free “Early Journal Content” offering, at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/592174. It had been reprinted in 1978 by Wizards Bookshelf in the Secret Doctrine Reference Series.
The Sanskrit text of the Sūrya-siddhānta was first published, along with the commentary by Raṅganātha, in 1859 in the Bibliotheca Indica series, Calcutta. It was edited by Fitzedward Hall, known for his care and accuracy, just as Indian printing is known for its many typographical errors. This resulted in a long list of errata given at the back of this book, something done by Hall but skipped by many others. The Sūrya-siddhānta with the commentary by Raṅganātha was again printed in Calcutta in 1871, with no editor statement. It appears by its format to be a re-typeset reprint of Hall’s edition. The Sūrya-siddhānta with the commentary by Raṅganātha was once again printed in Calcutta in 1891, edited by Jībānanda Vidyāsāgara. This says dvitīya-saṃskaraṇam, “second edition,” allowing us to think that perhaps he was responsible for the 1871 edition as well.
The Sūrya-siddhānta with a modern Sanskrit commentary by Sudhākara Dvivedī was published in Calcutta in 1911 in the Bibliotheca Indica series. The Sūrya-siddhānta with a modern Sanskrit commentary by Kapileśwara Chaudhary was published in Varanasi in 1946 in the Kashi Sanskrit Series. The Sūrya-siddhānta with the traditional Sanskrit commentary by Parameśvara, edited by Kripa Shankar Shukla, was published in 1957 by the University of Lucknow. The Sūrya-siddhānta with the traditional Sanskrit commentary by Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa, edited by Śrīcandra Pāṇḍeya, was published in 1991 by the Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. There are a few other Sanskrit editions of the Sūrya-siddhānta, apparently secondary or derivative, that I have not seen.
The Sanskrit text of the Sūrya-siddhānta is included in the 2007 English translation of Bimalā Prasāda Siddhānta Sarasvatī, but in Bengali script rather than devanāgarī, and also in Roman script (but with so many errors that it cannot be relied on). The Sanskrit text of the Sūrya-siddhānta in Roman script is also included as an appendix in A. K. Chakravarty’s 2001 book, The Sūryasiddhānta (The Astronomical Principles of the Text). Several of these Sanskrit editions and English translations are now available at the Digital Library of India.
By David Reigle on May 8, 2012 at 6:08 am
Like Theosophy, traditional Hinduism accepts a much greater antiquity for humanity than does modern science at present. Two members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a modern organization based on the Vaishnava tradition within Hinduism, set out to “critically examine the prevailing account of human origins and the methods by which it was established” (p. xxxvi). Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson did this in their large 1993 book, Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race (1996 first edition, revised, Bhaktivedanta Book Publishing, xxxviii, 914 pages). This book provides a wealth of archeological evidence for a much earlier date of physical humanity than is accepted by current science. At the same time, the evidence given in this book provides a subtle critique of current science for its not altogether objective handling of evidence on this topic, described by Cremo as a knowledge filter.
The amount of material the authors gathered was far more than they expected to find. But the mere bulk of Forbidden Archeology was daunting to many readers. Therefore a condensed version of this book was published in 1994 as The Hidden History of the Human Race (xxi, 322 pages).
The scientific community could not ignore Forbidden Archeology. They did respond to it, primarily in book reviews. These and other responses were gathered into a 1998 book by Michael A. Cremo, Forbidden Archeology’s Impact, with a cover statement or subtitle: How a Controversial New Book Shocked the Scientific Community and Became an Underground Classic (2001 second edition, xxxiv, 569 pages). Among the responses to Forbidden Archeology was one book, The Antiquity of Man: Artifactual, Fossil and Gene Records Explored, by Michael Brass (Baltimore: AmErica House, 2002, 220 pages). The Antiquity of Man attempted to counter Forbidden Archeology.
The 900 pages of Forbidden Archeology are almost entirely devoted to giving evidence. Much of this is cited from earlier journals, scientific reports, etc. Forbidden Archeology concludes (p. 750):
“Combining these findings with those from the preceding chapters, we conclude that the total evidence, including fossil bones and artifacts, is most consistent with the view that anatomically modern humans have coexisted with other primates for tens of millions of years.”
Because the authors found much more material than expected, they had to postpone giving their alternative view of human origins. As stated in their Introduction to Forbidden Archeology (p. xxxvi):
“Our research program led to results we did not anticipate, and hence a book much larger than originally envisioned. Because of this, we have not been able to develop in this volume our ideas about an alternative to current theories of human origins. We are therefore planning a second volume relating our extensive research results in this area to our Vedic source material.”
This second volume appeared in 2003 under the title, Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory, by Michael A. Cremo (xxx, 554 pages). As they earlier pointed out, they use “Vedic” in the broad sense to include the purāṇas and itihāsas. The actual text they draw on primarily is the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. The last chapter of Human Devolution is titled, “Human Devolution: A Vedic Account.” It begins:
“Let us now review the path we have taken. The evidence documented in Forbidden Archeology shows that humans of our type have existed on this planet for the duration of the current day of Brahma, about two billion years.”
They had not given this number of years in Forbidden Archeology, but shortly after its publication Michael Cremo gave it in a lecture, “Puranic Time and the Archeological Record,” at the World Archeological Congress 3, New Delhi, 1994. This lecture is reprinted in Forbidden Archeology’s Impact. There, after giving the figures for the lengths of the yugas (the four totaling 4,320,000 years), and then of the kalpa or a day of Brahma (4,320,000,000 years), he says (p. 6):
“According to Puranic accounts, we are now in the twenty-eighth yuga cycle of the seventh manvantara period of the present day of Brahma. This would give the inhabited earth an age of about 2 billion years.”
This, of course, is quite in agreement with what Theosophy teaches, as may be seen in H. P. Blavatsky’s book, The Secret Doctrine (e.g., vol. 2, p. 68). I did not, however, find any mention in any of these books of the eighteen million year figure for the age of physical humanity given in The Secret Doctrine (e.g., vol. 2, p. 69), and found in the Tamil Tirukkanda Panchanga. But this is a specific question within the larger question of the antiquity of humanity, on which traditional Hinduism and Theosophy agree. Students of Theosophy are greatly indebted to Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson for their tremendous labor in doing this research, placing the gathered evidence before the public, capturing the attention of the scientific community with it, and giving thinking people something to think about. In brief, they have done our homework for us on this important topic.
By Jacques Mahnich on May 6, 2012 at 6:17 pm
Current Science has developed many disciplines to assess Earth history. Obviously, this is based on the Universe, Solar and Earth genesys models, with all possible hypothesis, starting with the Big Bang theory, the solar nebulae accretion, and the earth generation from planetoides accretion and collisions. What is of some value is the consistancy between many observations and models like baryogenesis and the quantity and diversity of elements in the universe and on the earth. It gives some credibility to it. The purpose of this post is to give the scientific understanding in regard with earth history and life genesis vs time in order to compare with the traditions time-lines. It comes from Geology, and it is called the stratigraphic scale.
4 major eras have been identified (numbers are in million of years) : Precambrian (4,600 M to 550 M), Paleozoic (550 M to 250 M), Mesozoic (250 M to 65 M), and Cenozoic (65 M to now).
They are divided in sub-periods which may be of some interests in our search, in regard with life development on earth. They will be listed together with the sequence of events.
According to lastest findings and models :
- Earth accretion process started 4,600 M years ago. Accretion started when the protosolar cloud temperature decreased, triggering materials condensation. Then the combined energy of gravitational collapse and radioactive elements disintegration generated the fusion process, melting the compound of materials. The final cooling phase creates the different layers of the earth. The complete process is supposed to have lasted for 100 M years. (to be compared to the 300 M years from the SD)
- Life emerged first on earth between 4,600M and 3,500M years ago (blue-green algae) – The SD says that first appearance of “humanity” on planetary chain was 1,664 M years ago.
- Invertebrates and lower vegetals started 2,500 M years ago
- First vertebrate (fish) appeared during Cambrian era ( 550 M years ago )
- First batracian = Carboniferous era, 350 M years ago
- First reptiles = Permian era, 280 M years ago
- First mammal = Trias era, 235 M years ago
- First birds = Jurassic era, 200 M years ago
- Oldest man discovered = Pleistocene era, 1.8 M years ago. The S.D says that the human period, up, to year 1887 lasted for 18.6 M years.
By David Reigle on May 5, 2012 at 6:08 am
As correctly pointed out by critic William Emmette Coleman, the Vishnu Purana is the single major Eastern source for H. P. Blavatsky’s 1888 book, The Secret Doctrine. This text is therefore of great importance for the study of The Secret Doctrine and its basis, the “Book of Dzyan.” In one of the major publishing events in modern India, a critical edition of the Sanskrit text of the Viṣṇu-purāṇa was published in two large volumes, 1997 and 1999. A critical edition is prepared by comparing a number of different manuscripts, recording their variant readings in notes, and choosing the best readings to constitute the text of the critical edition. This is a real, large-scale critical edition, in which 43 Sanskrit manuscripts were gathered and collated, and 27 were chosen from which to prepare the Sanskrit edition. It is:
The Critical Edition of the Viṣṇupurāṇam, edited by M. M. Pathak, 2 vols., Vadodara: Oriental Institute, 1997, 1999.
This critical edition followed upon two previous critical editions of Sanskrit texts produced in India, that of the Mahābhārata, published by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, and that of the Rāmāyaṇa, published by the Oriental Institute, Vadodara (Baroda). In fact, it was the preparation of the critical edition of the Rāmāyaṇa by this same institute that developed the skills and expertise to undertake the critical edition of the Viṣṇu-purāṇa. At present, this book is still in print, and it is not expensive. It was about $15.00 when I got my copy, although the shipping will be twice this much for these heavy volumes. It can be ordered from Indian booksellers such as BibliaImpex.com.
All scholars citing translations of Sanskrit texts are expected to refer to the Sanskrit original, because translations are inexact. From 1999 onward, anyone citing the Viṣṇu-purāṇa will be expected to refer to this Sanskrit critical edition. Students of Theosophy will need it for use in research on the Book of Dzyan. Our task is difficult enough in working with secret books whose originals have not yet been discovered. We do not need to give our critics any more reason to consider us uninformed and our work unreliable.
By David Reigle on May 2, 2012 at 6:49 am
The age of the world as taught in Hindu Sanskrit texts, which is in general agreement with that taught in The Secret Doctrine, can be readily ascertained from the data given in the Hindu Sanskrit texts. This is not the case, however, for the age of humanity. The basis of the age of our present humanity as taught in The Secret Doctrine, in agreement with that taught in the Hindu Tamil Tirukkanda Panchanga for Kali Yuga 4986, is a mystery. We do not know either the data that formed the basis of the calculation, or the method used in making the calculation, of the 18,618,725 years up till Kali Yuga 4986, or 1884-1885 C.E., given for this (BCW 13.302; given in SD 2.69 as 18,618,728 up to the year 1887). Since this age of humanity as more than eighteen million years is of central importance to the anthropogenesis taught in the Book of Dzyan, I request that interested persons try to solve this problem.
The figure given from the Tirukkanda Panchanga for the age of the world (SD 2.68) can clearly be traced to the Sūrya-siddhānta, as can the deduction of the time taken for “creation” (sṛṣṭi) at the beginning of the kalpa (17,064,000 years) in the second figure given from it (1,664,500,987). The Secret Doctrine also claims the author of the Sūrya-siddhānta, Asuramaya, as one of its two sources. So we might reasonably expect the data regarding the more than eighteen million years figure for the age of our present humanity to be found in that book. I have not yet found such data there, or figured out how to deduce this figure from the data given there. The English translation by Ebenezer Burgess, despite being published in 1860, appears to be accurate for the most part. It was published in the Journal of the American Oriental Society. This older material from this journal is now available free from JSTOR. Here is the link to this translation: http://www.jstor.org/stable/
A kalpa (eon) is four billion, three hundred and twenty million (4,320,000,000) years.
One thousand mahā-yugas make a kalpa (chap. 1, verse 20); therefore:
A mahā-yuga (great age) is four million, three hundred and twenty thousand (4,320,000) years (chap. 1, verse 15).
Seventy-one mahā-yugas (yielding 306,720,000), to which must be added a sandhi period (1,728,000) at the end, make a manvantara (chap. 1, verse 18); therefore:
A manvantara (period of a manu) is three hundred and eight million, four hundred and forty-eight thousand years (308,448,000).
Fourteen manvantaras (yielding 4,318,272,000), to which must be added a sandhi period (1,728,000) at the beginning, make a kalpa (chap. 1, verse 19); i.e., 4,320,000,000 years.
Of the present kalpa, six manvantaras are past (6 x 308,448,000 = 1,850,688,000), and of the present Vaivasvata manvantara, twenty-seven mahā-yugas are past (27 x 4,320,000 = 116,640,000) (chap. 1, verse 22). Also past is the sandhi period (1,728,000) at the beginning of the kalpa. This yields 1,969,056,000 years. At the time the Sūrya-siddhānta was taught to the asura named Maya, the kṛta-yuga (1,728,000) of the twenty-eighth mahā-yuga had also passed (chap. 1, verse 23). This yields 1,970,784,000 years. From this must be deducted the time taken for “creation” at the beginning of the kalpa (17,064,000) (chap. 1, verse 24; note the typo here, “plants” for “planets,” uncorrected in the 1935 Calcutta reprint edition, and copied uncorrected in A. K. Chakravarty’s 2001 book, The Sūryasiddhānta, p. 64). This yields 1,953,720,000 years.
This whole calculation is summarized in chap. 1, verses 45-47, giving the result in word numbers so that there is no mistake: khacatuṣkayamādryagniśararandhraniśākarāḥ. That is: kha-catuṣka, a group of four skies, where sky or space equals 0, so 0000; yama, twins, 2; adri, mountain (the seven mountains), so 7; agni, fire (the three fires), so 3; śara, arrow (the five arrows), so 5; randhra, opening (the nine apertures of the body), so 9; niśākara, “night-maker,” the moon, so 1. Then all these digits must be read backwards, yielding 1,953,720,000. This is the number of years from the beginning of the epoch (not of the kalpa itself) to the end of the last kṛta-yuga.
To come up to the year 1884 C.E., we must add to this the time of the tretā-yuga (1,296,000), the dvāpara-yuga (864,000), and the number of years of the kali-yuga that have passed (4,986) of this twenty-eighth mahā-yuga, a total of 2,164,986 years. This yields 1,955,884,986 years. Once we correct the typo of 6 for 9 in the hundreds place, as discussed in the previous post, this is essentially the same figure as that given in BCW 13.301 (1,955,884,685) and SD 2.68 (1,955,884,687), both derived from the Tirukkanda Panchanga. This is the number of years from the beginning of the epoch to the year 1884 C.E.
Now we want to find out the age of just our own Vaivasvata humanity, the number of years that have elapsed in the Vaivasvata manvantara. We can do this in two ways. Using the data from the Sūrya-siddhānta, that twenty-seven complete mahā-yugas have already passed in the Vaivasvata manvantara (chap. 1, verse 22), we calculate 27 x 4,320,000 = 116,640,000 years. To this we must add, of the twenty-eighth mahā-yuga, the passed kṛta-yuga (1,728,000), the passed tretā-yuga (1,296,000), the passed dvāpara-yuga (864,000), and the elapsed years of the kali-yuga up to the year 1884 C.E. (4986), or 3,892,986 years. This yields 120,532,986 for the number of years that have elapsed from the beginning of the Vaivasvata manvantara to the year 1884 C.E.
This should match the number arrived at earlier by calculating from the beginning of the epoch to the year 1884 C.E. (1,955,884,986), minus the number of years up to the beginning of the Vaivasvata manvantara. For the number of years up to the beginning of the Vaivasvata manvantara, we get the following: the six past manvantaras (6 x 308,448,000 = 1,850,688,000), plus the sandhi period at the beginning of the kalpa (1,728,000), yields 1,852,416,000; minus the time taken for “creation” at the beginning of the kalpa (17,064,000), yields 1,835,352,000 years. Indeed, 1,955,884,986 minus 1,835,352,000 gives us 120,532,986 years. This is merely a check to be sure that the figures we are using match.
So we have 120,532,986 elapsed years of the Vaivasvata manvantara up to the year 1884 C.E., from which we must figure out how the 18,618,725 year age of physical humanity was derived. Subtracting 18,618,725 years from 120,532,986 years, we have 101,914,261 years to account for. We can try to do this in two ways. We may try to do this in terms of the yugas, which is the only information that the Sūrya-siddhānta gives us. Or we may try to do this in terms of the root-races, since we are told that the 18,618,725 year age of physical humanity is to the middle of the third root-race, and we are now past the middle of the fifth root-race.
According to The Secret Doctrine, each “round” or manvantara has 49 root-races, with seven on each of seven postulated “globes.” Since a Theosophical “round” equals two manus or manvantaras (because the second of these is a “seed” manu), the Sūrya-siddhānta information that we are in the seventh or Vaivasvata manvantara agrees with The Secret Doctrine information that we are in the fourth round (SD 2.309). But neither the Sūrya-siddhānta (chap. 1), nor the Viṣṇu-purāṇa (book 1, chap. 3, and book 3, chap. 1), nor The Laws of Manu (chap. 1) speak about 49 root-races or about seven globes. Yet if we cannot calculate how the 18,618,725 year figure was derived by the Tirukkanda Panchanga from just the yuga information, then we may try calculating this figure from the root-race information.
We may recall that for the age of humanity in this kalpa (also called a “day of Brahmā,” and consisting of fourteen manvantaras), the Tirukkanda Panchanga gave 1,664,500,987 years (SD 2.68). This represents a deduction of about 300,000,000 years from the beginning of evolution (1,955,884,987 years), allowing for the kingdoms up to the human kingdom to evolve. This 300 million years is apparently referred to in the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan given in The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, stanza II, śloka 5, “The wheel whirled for thirty crores more,” and śloka 6, “. . . After thirty crores she turned round.” A crore, Sanskrit koṭi, is ten million; so thirty crores is three hundred million. This deduction as made in the Tirukkanda Panchanga is 291,384,000 years, the length of a manvantara (308,448,000) minus the time taken for “creation” (sṛṣṭi) at the beginning of the kalpa (17,064,000 years). But I have not found in the Sūrya-siddhānta any mention that such a deduction for the evolution of the lower kingdoms should be made. So perhaps the compilers of the Tirukkanda Panchanga did have access to a more complete manuscript of the Sūrya-siddhānta than is now available, as Blavatsky suggests (SD 2.50-51, 67).
However we do it, via the yugas or via the root-races, we must account for the 101,914,261 preceding years, and the 18,618,725 year age of physical humanity, totaling 120,532,986 elapsed years of the Vaivasvata manvantara up to the year 1884 C.E. The 101,914,261 preceding years would be distributed over the seven root-races of the first globe, the seven root-races of the second globe, the seven root-races of the third globe, and the first two and a half root-races of our present fourth globe. That is, the 101,914,261 years would be distributed over twenty-three and a half root-races, while the 18,618,725 years would cover the period of about two root-races. We must figure out how the Tirukkanda Panchanga arrived at the 18,618,725 year figure. Can it be derived from the Sūrya-siddhānta? What is the data that formed the basis of the calculation of the 18,618,725 years up till Kali Yuga 4986 (1884-1885 C.E.)? What is the method used in making the calculation of the 18,618,725 years up till Kali Yuga 4986?
By David Reigle on April 29, 2012 at 5:33 am
Regarding HPB’s fragmentary article, “On Cosmic Cycles, Manvantaras, and Rounds” (BCW 13.301-306), Daniel Caldwell called my attention to a discussion of this by David Pratt. This is part of his larger article, “Secret Cycles,” section 9, titled, “The unfinished article controversy” (http://davidpratt.info/
First, in the 1,955,884,687 (SD 2.68, or 1,955,884,685, BCW 13.301) years given from the Tirukkanda Panchanga for Kali Yuga 4986 there is apparently a typographical error. The last three digits, 687, should be 987. David Pratt reports that Hans Malmstedt suggested that the 9 was simply placed upside down, making 6, by the typesetter. This error, however, would have occurred before The Secret Doctrine was set in type, as we now know from the BCW 13 article (which gives the same number, but two years earlier). This article was not published until 1958, so would not have been known to Malmstedt, writing in 1933. So the error would have been either a typographical error in the Tamil Tirukkanda Panchanga itself, or a clerical error in the English translation of relevant parts of this made for HPB. It is unfortunate that no copy of this pañcāṅga can now be found. When all the rest of the figure can be fully explained, it seems certain that this is merely a typographical error, and that the 6 should be 9.
For the figure 1,664,500,987, gotten after 300,000,000 was supposed to have been subtracted from 1,955,884,687 (SD 2.68), this yields 291,384,000 after changing the typo 687 to 987. As Malmstedt has shown, this matches the length of a full manvantara, 308,448,000 years, less the time taken for “creation” (sṛṣṭi, emanation or manifestation) at the beginning of the kalpa, 17,064,000 years. This last figure, from Sūrya-siddhānta 1.24, is an important part of its calculations, even though some other astronomical treatises do not use it (e.g., Brahmagupta’s Brahmasphuṭa-siddhānta, and Bhāskara II’s Siddhānta-śiromaṇi). This shows that the figure 300,000,000 given by HPB (SD 2.68) was merely an approximation, whether of 291,384,000 or of 308,448,000 years. The fact that the Tirukkanda Panchanga uses the former figure is another demonstration that it, like other pañcāṅgas, was based on the Sūrya-siddhānta.
Then, the figure given by Dayanand Saraswati and the Arya Samaj, 1,960,852,987 years, is also explained. Malmstedt, as reported by David Pratt, showed that it is the standard number, but it does not include the numbers for the sandhi periods. Since the Sūrya-siddhānta prescribes calculating for these sandhi periods, we see that Dayanand has disregarded this. He has also disregarded the time taken for the “creation” given in the Sūrya-siddhānta. In other words, Dayanand does not follow the Sūrya-siddhānta.
By David Reigle on April 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm
In The Secret Doctrine (1888), H. P. Blavatsky gives a figure for the age of the cosmos or solar system (SD 2.68), derived from the Tirukkanda Panchanga for Kali Yuga 4986, or 1884-1885 C.E. (SD 2.51), as 1,955,884,687 years. In a posthumously published writing fragment tentatively titled “On Cosmic Cycles, Manvantaras, and Rounds” (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 301-306), HPB gave the same figure, obviously from the same source, but before it was adapted for 1887 by adding two years to it, 1,955,884,685. Here, rather than the age of the cosmos as a whole, or narrowed down to the age of the solar system, she applies this figure to our planetary chain (the seven rounds). Then, presumably in support of such an unusually large figure, she notes (SD 2.68 fn.) that the school of Dayanand Saraswati, the Arya Samaj, on the cover of their Arya Magazine for a similar year, gives the date, “Aryan era 1,960,852,987.”
The Tirukkanda Panchanga is a calendar or almanac, written in Tamil, and published in south India. Pañcāṅgas are published throughout India for each year. This one, HPB says, was compiled “from fragments of immensely old works attributed to the Atlantean astronomer, and found in Southern India” (SD 2.50). The “Atlantean astronomer” is Asuramaya, as she says in the section, “Two Antediluvian Astronomers” (SD 2.47-51). She takes for granted that her readers know what book Asuramaya wrote, the Sūrya-siddhānta, so does not there mention it. From a secret book ascribed to Pesh-Hun or Nārada, called the “Mirror of Futurity,” and from the work of Asuramaya (i.e., the original Sūrya-siddhānta), she tells us, come “the figures of our cycles” (SD 2.49). I say “the original Sūrya-siddhānta,” because we know that the current one is a later redaction. We know this because the old Sūrya-siddhānta as summarized in Varāha-mihira’s Pañca-siddhāntikā differs significantly from the current one.
The Sūrya-siddhānta is quite the most influential astronomical work in India, and only in the last century has it become superseded in many circles by modern astronomy. The figures given in the Tirukkanda Panchanga, like other traditional pañcāṅgas (Indian calendars, almanacs), and also the date given in the Arya Magazine, are based on the Sūrya-siddhānta. It gives (chapter 1, verse 47) 1,953,720,000 solar years since the beginning of the kalpa (eon) to the end of the last kṛta-yuga (“perfect age”), less the time taken for “creation” (sṛṣṭi, emanation or manifestation) at the beginning of the kalpa, 17,064,000 years. This figure, 1,953,720,000, is possibly original, because it is given in a verse using word-numbers. This avoids typographical errors that are frequent when using numerals. From this figure, one can calculate to the beginning of the Śaka era (78 C.E.), much used in India, as 1,955,883,179 years. Similarly, Ebenezer Burgess, in his English translation of the Sūrya-siddhānta, published in 1860, calculated to the year 1859 C.E., the figure 1,955,884,960 years (p. 173). This is only a few hundred years different from the figure given in the Tirukkanda Panchanga, and adopted by HPB in The Secret Doctrine.
Burgess noted (pp. 142, 144) that the manuscripts of the Sūrya-siddhānta used by him had somewhat different readings and arrangement than the first published Sanskrit edition (edited by Fitzedward Hall and published in 1859 in the Bibliotheca Indica series, Calcutta). This same basic text, as commented on by Raṅganātha, was also published in Calcutta in 1871, and again there in 1891 edited by Jīvānanda Vidyāsāgara. Despite the fact that at least 36 Sanskrit commentaries on the Sūrya-siddhānta are known, only two other traditional commentaries on it have been published, as far as I know. The first is that by Parameśvara. This was edited by Kripa Shankar Shukla and published in 1957 (by Lucknow University). The verse in question, 1.47, giving the figure in question, is verse 1.46 in this edition, and it has the variant reading nanda rather than randhra (both standing for “nine”). The second is that by Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa. This was edited by Śrīcandra Pāṇḍeya and published in 1991 (by Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi). We do not have a critical edition of the Sūrya-siddhānta, in the known redaction, nor do we have any manuscript of the old version as summarized by Varāha-mihira in his Pañca-siddhāntikā.
By David Reigle on April 22, 2012 at 9:33 pm
The “Questions of Maitreya” chapter speaks not only of the dharmatā (“true nature”) and svabhāva (“inherent nature”) as mentioned in the first post on this, it also speaks of the dhātu (“element”) itself. The Perfection of Wisdom texts had spoken of the unthinkable or inconceivable element (acintya-dhātu, e.g., Edward Conze, The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, pp. 123, 179, 183, 185, 188, 193, 249, 253, 277, 305, 370, 374, 376, 377). This chapter calls it the unspeakable or inexpressible element (nirabhilapya-dhātu, Conze, pp. 646-647, eleven occurrences, translated as “inexpressible realm”). Students of The Secret Doctrine will be reminded of these two adjectives, unthinkable and unspeakable, as applied to the first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine, an omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle (vol. 1, p. 14), which, as discussed here before, would be the dhātu, the one element. The “Questions of Maitreya” chapter is one of the most primary documents we have in relation to this fundamental teaching.
A new translation of the three key definitions from the “Questions of Maitreya” is given below. It is followed by “Translation Notes,” explaining how I understood the Sanskrit. These notes are given because Conze said that he and Lamotte have not understood an important phrase in the definition of dharmatā (p. 648, fn. 17). The notes show how I arrived at my translation of it. Also included below is the full Sanskrit text, which Conze and Iida did not give in their edition. They abbreviated what they regarded as repetitive parts of the text, giving only ellipses in their place. The full text is taken from the Sanskrit edition of the complete Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra in 25,000 lines, which only recently became available. It was prepared by Vijay Raj Vajracharya, and published in 3 volumes, 2006-2008 (Sarnath, Varanasi: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies). Before giving the translation, I must do what Conze did not do, and which led to Thurman’s criticism of his translations. The technical terms used must be briefly explained.
No one expects to understand a science such as physics or chemistry without first learning its technical terms and their framework. The same is true of religio-philosophic systems such as Madhyamaka or Yogācāra Buddhism. All of Buddhism takes for granted a familiarity with the dharmas, the factors of existence that make up its worldview, often translated as “phenomena.” This is primarily a psychological worldview rather than a physical worldview, like we are accustomed to from modern science. So the dharmas are mostly states of our psychological make-up. These have been just as minutely catalogued in the Buddhist science of Abhidharma as have the physical elements in modern science. Indeed, common lists of dharmas include 75 (Abhidharma-kośa) or 100 (Yogācāra) dharmas, much like the periodic table of chemical elements.
The most basic analysis of a person is in terms of the five skandhas, the five “aggregates” that make up a person. This has been an essential feature of Buddhism from the beginning, before the development of the detailed lists of dharmas. The definitions from the “Questions of Maitreya” of the three aspects of dharmas, or ways in which dharmas are to be seen, are given in relation to the five skandhas, then going on to include all dharmas up to the highest with the phrase, “up to buddha-dharmas.” We do not yet have standardized English translations for the five skandhas or “aggregates.” Common translations for them are: (1) rūpa, “form” or “matter”; (2) vedanā, “feeling” or “sensation”; (3) saṃjñā, “perception” or “perception and conception”; (4) saṃskāra, “formations” or “mental formations” or “karma-formations” or “volitional formations” or “volitions” or “dispositions” or “conditioning forces” or “compositional factors”; (5) vijñāna, “consciousness.”
There is wide consensus that, as one of the five aggregates that make up a person, rūpa (“form”) refers to “matter.” Although this is therefore a good translation, there is also wisdom in keeping the same translation term for the same original term wherever it occurs, as we learned from the marvelously consistent Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts that comprise the Tibetan Buddhist canon. There, rūpa is translated as gzugs throughout. So I will stay with “form” for rūpa. For the second aggregate, vedanā, the translation term “sensation” is not very different from “feeling,” so I will use the more commonly used “feeling.” For the third aggregate, translators have pointed out that when saṃjñā is translated as “perception,” we must also know that “conception” is included in this skandha. The fourth skandha, saṃskārāḥ (plural), is quite the hardest to translate, as may be seen by its many renderings. I will here simply choose one of these, “conditioning forces.” The fifth skandha is translated by most translators as “consciousness” (although a few translate it as “perception” or “cognition”).
The “Questions of Maitreya” chapter begins with Maitreya asking the Buddha how, if the inherent nature (svabhāva) of all dharmas is non-existence (abhāva), should a bodhisattva practicing the Perfection of Wisdom train in the bodhisattva training in regard to “form” (the first aggregate), “feeling” (the second aggregate), etc., etc. That is, if all dharmas are ultimately non-existent, how does a bodhisattva (who wishes to help others) understand the dharmas that make up the people and the world that are to be helped. The Buddha replies that the bodhisattva should understand all dharmas as just names (nāma-mātra).
Maitreya then says: when the name “form,” etc., is perceived as having substance or being real (sa-vastuka), based on it being the outward sign (nimitta) of something that is conditioned (saṃskāra), then how can a bodhisattva train in understanding “form,” etc., to be just a name. That is, since each thing we see is real in that it is produced by causes and conditions, how can we regard it as being merely a name. Maitreya here uses a phrase that is used throughout the “Questions of Maitreya” chapter, saṃskāra-nimitta, translated by Conze as “the sign of something conditioned.” This is a perfectly good translation, but it needs to be explained.
Something conditioned or compounded (saṃskāra) is something that is produced by causes and conditions, and that is put together or made of parts. This means that it is transitory or impermanent, and will not last. Everything in the phenomenal world is something conditioned or compounded (saṃskāra, saṃskṛta). So to speak of something conditioned is a way to refer to everything in the phenomenal or perceptible world. Then, we do not perceive a thing in its entirety, but we see only the outward sign or visible representation of it. This is its sign (nimitta), how we characterize or define it. It is a way to refer to something according to how we see it, which allows us to identify it, name it, etc. The Tibetan translation of nimitta used here, mtshan ma (as opposed to rgyu mtshan or rgyu meaning cause), emphasizes its meaning as something’s defining characteristic. The compound saṃskāra-nimitta, translated by Conze as “the sign of something conditioned,” thus may also be translated as “defined by being conditioned.” It refers to all dharmas except the unconditioned or uncompounded dharmas, namely, nirvāṇa, and sometimes also ākāśa (“space”), and sometimes also tathatā (“suchness”).
Maitreya goes on to point out here: if a thing that is defined by being conditioned, to which we give the name “form,” etc., actually lacked any substance or any reality, if there was really nothing there, then it would not be tenable to give it the name, “form,” etc. There would be nothing to give a name to. The Buddha replies that the name is adventitious (āgantuka), not inherent, projected onto a thing that is defined by being conditioned, such as form, etc. All along, Maitreya has been asking about the inherent nature (svabhāva) of dharmas. This reply, that the name is adventitious, leads to a discussion of whether the inherent nature of form, etc., is actually perceived. If the name is adventitious, then perhaps it is the inherent nature of form, etc., that is perceived. This is denied. If the name is perceived, then perhaps the name is the inherent nature of form, etc. This is denied.
Maitreya then wonders if form, etc., completely do not exist by way of their inherent characteristics (sva-lakṣaṇa), here used as a kind of synonym of inherent nature (svabhāva). The Buddha replies: I do not say that form, etc., completely do not exist by way of their inherent characteristics. Maitreya responds: how do form, etc., exist? The Buddha replies that they exist by worldly convention, not in reality or ultimately (paramārthataḥ).
Maitreya now brings in the inexpressible “element” (dhātu). He says that, as he understands the Buddha’s teachings, the “element” is inexpressible (nirabhilapya) ultimately. The implication is that, ultimately (paramārthataḥ), one cannot say it exists or does not exist. Students of The Secret Doctrine will here be reminded of H. P. Blavatsky’s statement, “It is ‘Be-ness’ rather than Being” (vol. 1, p. 14). Maitreya wonders, then, why the Buddha would say that form, etc., do not exist ultimately. Wouldn’t they be the same as the element, so that one could only say about their existence that it is inexpressible ultimately, rather than that they do not exist ultimately? The Buddha replies: things that are defined by being conditioned, i.e., form, etc., are neither different from the element nor not different from the element. Maitreya asks how, then, should they be understood.
The Buddha says that they should be understood under three aspects: (1) parikalpita (kun brtags), “falsely imagined,” or “imaginary”; (2) vikalpita (rnam par brtags), “conceptualized,” or “constructed by thought”; and (3) dharmatā (chos nyid), “dharma-ness” or “true nature.” Maitreya asks: which is the falsely imagined form, etc.; which is the thought-constructed form, etc.; which is the true nature form, etc. The Buddha then gives the definitions of these three, where the present translation begins.
The Sanskrit text accompanying the translation is from Āryapañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā, ed. Vijay Raj Vajracharya, vol. 3, pp. 1328-1329. This corresponds to the Conze and Iida edition, p. 238, nos. 39-41 (attached earlier). The corresponding Tibetan translation from the Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra in 18,000 lines is found in the Collated Kangyur, vol. 31, pp. 387-388; the one from the Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra in 25,000 lines is found in vol. 28, pp. 775-776. In the revised Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra in 25,000 lines, it is found in the Collated Tengyur, vol. 51, pp. 790-791. As said before, Conze’s English translation of this passage is found in his book, The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, p. 648 (attached earlier). Here is the Sanskrit text and new translation:
bhagavān āha | yā maitreya saṃskāra-nimitte vastuni rūpam iti nāma saṃjñā saṃketaḥ prajñaptir vyavahāraḥ niśritya rūpa-svabhāvatayā parikalpanedaṃ parikalpitaṃ rūpam | yan maitreya tasmin saṃskāra-nimitte vastuni vedaneti saṃjñeti saṃskārā iti vijñānam iti yāvad buddha-dharmā iti nāma saṃjñā saṃketaḥ prajñaptir vyavahāraḥ niśritya vedanā-svabhāvatayā saṃjñā-svabhāvatayā saṃskāra-svabhāvatayā vijñāna-svabhāvatayā yāvad buddha-dharma-svabhāvatayā parikalpaneyaṃ parikalpitā vedanā-saṃjñā-saṃskārā vijñānaṃ yāvad ime parikalpitā buddha-dharmāḥ |
“The Blessed One said: Maitreya, in regard to a thing that is defined by being conditioned, the false imagination as to the inherent nature of form, based on the name, notion, label, designation, or conventional expression ‘form’, is the falsely imagined form. Maitreya, in regard to this thing that is defined by being conditioned, the false imagination as to the inherent nature of feeling, as to the inherent nature of perception, as to the inherent nature of conditioning forces, as to the inherent nature of consciousness, up to as the inherent nature of buddha-dharmas, based on the name, notion, label, designation, or conventional expression ‘feeling’, ‘perception’, ‘conditioning forces’, ‘consciousness’, up to ‘buddha-dharmas’, is the falsely imagined feeling, perception, conditioning forces, consciousness, up to the falsely imagined buddha-dharmas.”
yā punas tasya saṃskāra-nimittasya vastuno vikalpa-mātra-dharmatāyām avasthānatā vikalpaṃ pratītyābhilapanatā tatredaṃ nāma saṃjñā saṃketaḥ prajñaptir vyavahāro rūpam iti vedaneti saṃjñeti saṃskārā iti vijñānam iti yāvad buddha-dharmā iti | idaṃ vikalpitaṃ rūpam iyaṃ vikalpitā vedanā iyaṃ vikalpitā saṃjñā ime vikalpitāḥ saṃskārā idaṃ vikalpitaṃ vijñānam ime yāvad vikalpitā buddha-dharmāḥ |
“Next, this thing that is defined by being conditioned is established as having the nature of a thought-construction only. Dependent on the thought-construction is an expression. What, in regard to this, is the name, notion, label, designation, or conventional expression ‘form’, ‘feeling’, ‘perception’, ‘conditioning forces’, ‘consciousness’, up to ‘buddha-dharmas’, this is the thought-constructed form, this is the thought-constructed feeling, this is the thought-constructed perception, these are the thought-constructed conditioning forces, this is the thought-constructed consciousness, up to these are the thought-constructed buddha-dharmas.”
yā utpādād vā tathāgatānām anutpādād vā sthitaiveyaṃ dharmāṇāṃ dharmatā dharma-sthititā dharma-dhātur yat tena parikalpita-rūpeṇa tasya vikalpita-rūpasya nityaṃ nitya-kālaṃ dhruvaṃ dhruva-kālaṃ niḥsvabhāvatā dharma-nairātmyaṃ tathatā bhūta-koṭir idaṃ dharmatā rūpam iyaṃ dharmatā vedanā saṃjñā saṃskārā vijñānam ime yāvad buddha-dharmāḥ |
“Whether tathāgatas arise or do not arise, this true nature (dharmatā) of dharmas simply remains; [it is] the condition for the abiding of dharmas (dharma-sthititā), the element of dharmas (dharma-dhātu), the absence of self in dharmas (dharma-nairātmya), which is the absence of inherent nature (niḥsvabhāva) of this thought-constructed form as [it appears as] this falsely imagined form throughout permanent, permanent time, and constant, constant time, [it is] suchness (tathatā), [it is] the reality limit (bhūta-koṭi). This is the true nature form (dharmatā rūpa), this is the true nature feeling, perception, conditioning forces, consciousness, up to these are the [true nature] buddha-dharmas.”
Before getting to the problem area, a few other translation issues should be clarified. Sanskrit regularly uses what has been called a yat-tat correlative, where the relative pronoun yat, “what, which,” is correlated with the demonstrative pronoun tat, “this, that.” This includes all forms of the Sanskrit pronouns, in any gender or any declension, and not only the forms yat and tat. Such a construction with correlating pronouns is not used in English. In our first definition above, the core sentence is: yā parikalpanā idaṃ parikalpitaṃ rūpam, where the correlating pronouns are yā, “what,” and idam, “this.” It says, literally, “what is false imagination, this is falsely imagined form.” But in English, we merely say, “false imagination is falsely imagined form.” We do not use the correlating pronouns. So my English translation of this definition purposely omits these pronouns. This same core sentence structure is used for all three definitions, beginning with yā, “what,” and ending with the correlative idam, “this.” In the second two definitions, however, the beginning part giving the “what” is lengthy, so the definition requires more than one English sentence. In the second definition, I have not omitted the “what,” but have moved it to the beginning of the third English sentence. Even though it does not make very good English, I have retained it in the translation because the correlating “this” in the ending part of the definition is repeated for each item. In the third definition, I have omitted translating the “what” in the lengthy beginning part of the definition, but I have translated the “this” at the beginning of the English sentence giving the ending part of the definition.
On specific terms: As already said, the word nimitta, often translated as “sign,” is here translated in the compound saṃskāra-nimitta as “defined by,” following the Tibetan translation of it used here, mtshan ma. The word saṃketa is also often translated as “sign.” Conze here translated it as “social agreement.” I have here translated it as “label.”
Then, the compound dharma-sthititā is not easy to understand. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates its Pali equivalent as “the stableness of the Dhamma.” Conze translates it as “the established order of dharmas.” My translation of it as “the condition for the abiding of dharmas” is based on the form of this catechism-like saying as it occurs in the Saṃyuktāgama: utpādād vā tathāgatānām anutpādād vā sthitā eveyaṃ dharmatā dharma-sthitaye dhātuḥ. Here, sthiti is declined in the dative case, “for the abiding of dharmas.” The whole sentence may be translated as: “Whether tathāgatas arise or do not arise, this true nature (dharmatā) simply remains, the element (dhātu) for the abiding of dharmas.” The Sanskrit of this text was discovered among the Turfan finds in the early 1900s. See: Funfundzwanzig Sūtras des Nidānasaṃyukta, edited by Chandrabhāl Tripāṭhī (Sanskrittexte aus den Turfanfunden, vol. 8. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1962, p. 148). The word “condition” in my translation renders the -tā suffix.
The problematic phrase is given by Conze (p. 648) as: “the absence of own-being which is characteristic eternally and through all eternity, constantly and through all time, of that discerned form because of that imagined form.” In a footnote to this, Conze refers to and partially quotes a French translation by Lamotte, concluding: “We have not understood this phrase.” The reference is given as “Lamotte II 1. p. 91.” As happens all too often, this is not listed in the abbreviations, and there is no bibliography. Paging backwards, we find on p. 583 fn. a reference to “E. Lamotte, Le traite,” but this is a different book. The reference, it turns out, is to Lamotte’s 1938 book, La somme du grand vehicule, tome II, fascicule I. There, in a long footnote quoting material from the Chinese translation of the Upanibandhana commentary, this same passage occurs. The phrase in question is: “En raison de cette matiere imaginaire (parikalpitarūpa), la matiere pensee (vikalparūpa) est eternelle et constante.” This is then summed up as: “En raison de ces attributs de Buddha imaginaires (parikalpitabuddhadharma), les attributs de Buddha penses (vikalpabuddhadharma) sont eternels et constants.” Ani Migme translates Lamotte’s French of these phrases as (p. 133): “Because of this imaginary nature (parikalpitarūpa), conceptual form (vikalparūpa) is eternal and constant”; and “Because of these imaginary attributes of the Buddha (parikalpitabuddhadharma), the conceptual attributes of the Buddha (vikalpabuddhadharma) are eternal and constant.”
As may be seen, Conze’s and Lamotte’s translations agree in saying “because of that imagined form/this imaginary nature.” One must wonder why anything eternal and constant would be because of something imagined or imaginary (I have translated this as “falsely imagined,” because the prefix “pari” gives kalpita, “imagined,” the sense of “falsely”). The “because of” is a translation of the instrumental case ending, “-ena,” on parikalpita-rūpeṇa, and its corresponding pronoun declined in the instrumental case, tena. The instrumental case is not always easy to translate, because it has more than one meaning. One of the less-known meanings of the instrumental case is “as.” It is not found in Sanskrit textbooks known to me. But it can be found in this meaning in a related text, Vasubandhu’s commentary on Maitreya’s Madhyānta-vibhāga, 3.2: tat punar daśa-vidhaṃ daśa-vidhātmagrāha-pratipakṣeṇa veditavyam, “Further, this group of ten [principles] should be understood as an antidote (pratipakṣeṇa) to the group of ten graspings of self.” It can also be found in this meaning in another old text, Gauḍapāda’s Māṇḍūkya-kārikā, 3.3: ātmā hy ākāśavaj jīvair ghaṭākāśair ivoditaḥ, “The ātman has arisen as individual souls (jīvair, instrumental plural), like space as the space in pots.” Indeed, this text even uses it in this meaning with the cognate verbal, vikalpita, in 2.17 and 2.19. The latter is: prāṇādibhir anantais tu bhāvair etair vikalpitaḥ, “[It] is imagined as prāṇa, etc., as these infinite existing things.” This establishes that the instrumental case can mean “as.” Does it mean “as” here?
In a text by Vasubandhu, the Tri-svabhāva-nirdeśa, the corresponding three svabhāvas taught in the Yogācāra school of Buddhism are explained. These are: (1) parikalpita svabhāva, the “falsely imagined nature”; (2) paratantra svabhāva, the “dependent nature”; and (3) pariniṣpanna svabhāva, the “perfect nature.” They are defined in verses 2-4, which I translate as follows:
yat khyāti paratantro ’sau yathā khyāti sa kalpitaḥ |
pratyayādhīna-vṛttitvāt kalpanā-mātra-bhāvataḥ || 2 ||
2. What appears is the dependent, because it functions in dependence on conditions. As it appears is the imagined, because of being imagination only.
tasya khyātur yathā-khyānaṃ yā sadāvidyamānatā |
jñeyaḥ sa pariniṣpannaḥ svabhāvo ’nanyathātvataḥ || 3 ||
3. The ever non-existence of what appears, as it appears, is to be known as the perfect nature, because it is changeless.
tatra kiṃ khyāty asatkalpaḥ kathaṃ khyāti dvayātmanā |
tasya kā nāstitā tena yā tatrādvaya-dharmatā || 4 ||
4. Of these, what appears? The imagination of what is unreal. How does it appear? In the form of duality. What is the non-existence of that as that (tena)? Their true nature without duality.
Here in verses 2 and 3, the word yathā, “as” (in the sense of “the way in which”), is twice used to define the (falsely) imagined nature (kalpita used for parikalpita to fit the meter): “as it appears.” Then in verse 4, the pronoun declined in the instrumental case, tena, clearly means “as that/this.” This is also what it means in the problematic phrase from the “Questions of Maitreya” chapter. It does not here mean “because of this/that,” as Lamotte took it in his early work (translated from a Chinese translation rather than the Sanskrit original) that he never had time to go back and revise, and as Conze also gave but responsibly added a note saying, “We have not understood this phrase.” It here means “as this falsely imagined form”; so I have translated this phrase as “the absence of inherent nature (niḥsvabhāva) of this thought-constructed form as [it appears as] this falsely imagined form throughout permanent, permanent time, and constant, constant time.” I added in brackets “[it appears as]” so that “as this falsely imagined form” would not be taken as “as also this falsely imagined form.”
Not a single one of the seven English translations of the Tri-svabhāva-nirdeśa now available took tena in verse 4 as “as that/this.” Two translations simply omitted the tena (Sujitkumar Mukhopadhyaya, The Trisvabhāvanirdeśa of Vasubandhu, 1939; and Stefan Anacker, Seven Works of Vasubandhu, 1984). Two translations took the tena as “with this/that” (Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti, “with this (duality),” Journal of Indian Philosophy, 1983, p. 252; and Karl Brunnholzl, “with that [duality],” Straight from the Heart, 2007). Two seem to have taken the tena in the meaning “by this,” and then paraphrased this as “will result from” (Thomas A. Kochumuttom, A Buddhist Doctrine of Experience, 1982), or as “is the consequence of” (Jay Garfield, Empty Words, 2002, but the translation is too loose to tell for sure). One seems to have taken the tena as “in virtue of which” and placed it with the last metrical foot of the verse (Thomas E. Wood, Mind Only, 1991). Despite the yathā (“as”) in the definitions in the preceding two verses, the meaning of the instrumental case as “as” is too little known.
By admin on April 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm
A short presentation of the context of the Book of Dzyan, as described by H.P.Blavatsky and other theosophists has been put together by David Pratt, and, thanks to his agreement, it is reprinted here as a brief introduction to the subject. More on Theosophy Exploration can be found on David Pratt’s web site .
The Book of Dzyan
H.P. Blavatsky begins the first chapter of Isis Unveiled (1:1) with the following words:
There exists somewhere in this wide world an old Book – so very old that our modern antiquarians might ponder over its pages an indefinite time, and still not quite agree as to the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. It is the only original copy now in existence. The most ancient Hebrew document on occult learning – the Siphra Dzeniouta – was compiled from it, and that at a time when the former was already considered in the light of a literary relic.
She goes on to describe one of the illustrations in the book, which shows Adam emanating from the Divine Essence.(1)
In The Secret Doctrine (1:xliii), Blavatsky writes:
The ‘very old Book’ is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah Dzeniouta but even the Sepher Jezirah, the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-king, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Purânas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume. Tradition says, that it was taken down in Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue, from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the sons of Light, in Central Asia, at the very beginning of the 5th (our) race . . .
In an article entitled ‘The Secret Books of “Lam-Rim” and Dzyan’, which was not published during her lifetime, Blavatsky says that the Book of Dzyan, on which The Secret Doctrine is based, is one of the volumes of Kiu-te:
The Book of Dzyan – from the Sanskrit word ‘Dhyâna’ (mystic meditation) – is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of the public works of the same name. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric purposes and the use of the laymen may be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa Lamas, in the library of any monastery; and also fourteen books of Commentaries and Annotations on the same by the initiated Teachers.
Strictly speaking, those thirty-five books ought to be termed ‘The Popularised Version’ of the Secret Doctrine, full of myths, blinds, and errors; the fourteen volumes of Commentaries, on the other hand – with their translations, annotations, and an ample glossary of Occult terms, worked out from one small archaic folio, the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World – contain a digest of all the Occult Sciences. These, it appears, are kept secret and apart, in the charge of the Teshu-Lama, of Shigatse. The Books of Kiu-te are comparatively modern, having been edited within the last millennium, whereas, the earliest volumes of theCommentaries are of untold antiquity . . .(2)
G. de Purucker makes the following comments on the Book of Dzyan:
The Book of Dzyan, as a physical roll or book or manuscript, . . . is, as H.P.B. says, not very old, probably about a thousand years, and is part of a well-known, more or less common Tibetan series of works, well-known even exoterically, called Kiu-ti . . . The substance, however, of the Book of Dzyan, which is simply the Tibetan or Mongolian way of pronouncing the Sanskrit Dhyâna, is very ancient, even highly archaic, goes right back into Atlantean times, and even beyond as regards the doctrine taught. . . .
The Book of Dzyan is written in Tibetan, at least part of it or most of it, is interspersed with a lot of exoteric stuff, but the real occult part of the Book of Dzyan is one of the first of the Kiu-ti volumes and deals mainly with cosmogony, and later on to a less extent, I believe, with anthropogony or the beginnings of mankind.(3)
Blavatsky states that the Stanzas of Dzyan as presented in The Secret Doctrine are a modern translation that blends together texts and glosses to make them more comprehensible. She speaks of Tibetan and Senzar versions of the stanzas, and says that extracts are given from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit translations of the original Senzar commentaries and glosses.(4) She also explains that Senzar, the mystery language of the prehistoric ages, is ‘the language now called SYMBOLISM’.(5) An example is the series of glyphs from ‘an archaic manuscript’ which are described in the first few pages of the Proem (SD 1:1-5), and represent the dawn of a new manvantara.
In the Introductory to The Secret Doctrine (1:xxii), Blavatsky writes:
One of the greatest, and, withal, the most serious objection to the correctness and reliability of the whole work will be the preliminary STANZAS: ‘How can the statements contained in them be verified?’ . . . The Book of Dzyan (or ‘Dzan’) is utterly unknown to our Philologists, or at any rate was never heard of by them under its present name.
Despite all the information provided by Blavatsky, the actual identity of the public books of Kiu-te remained a mystery for over 80 years after her death. The existence of such books was called into question, and they were often dismissed as figments of her imagination. However, in 1975 H.J. Spierenburg (6) identified the Books of Kiu-te as the Tibetan Buddhist Tantras – the correct transliteration of the Tibetan title is rGyud-sde, but ‘Kiu-te’ is a good approximation of the pronunciation. In 1981, another theosophical scholar, David Reigle, independently came to the same conclusion regarding the identity of the Books of Kiu-te.(7) He writes:
As [Blavatsky] said, they are indeed found in the library of any Tibetan Gelugpa monastery, as also in those of the other sects (Kargyudpa, Nyingmapa, and Sakyapa), and they are indeed highly occult works, being regarded by the entire Tibetan Buddhist tradition as embodying the Buddha’s secret teachings. . . . [O]nly the spelling of the term foiled previous attempts to identify them.(8)
The spelling ‘Kiu-te’ (or Khiu-te) is taken from the writings of the Capuchin monk Horace della Penna. Blavatsky quotes his extremely negative views on the Books of Kiu-te in her article ‘The Secret Books of “Lam-Rim” and Dzyan’, and they are refuted by the ‘Chohan-Lama’, ‘the Chief of the Archive-registrars of the secret Libraries of the Dalai and Ta-shü-hlumpo Lamas-Rimboche’, in an article entitled ‘Tibetan Teachings’, written at Blavatsky’s request but not published until after her death.(9)
The Tibetan Buddhist Sacred Canon is divided into two parts: the Kanjur, containing the Buddha’s Word, and the Tanjur, containing commentaries. Reigle believes that the Book of Dzyan may be the Mûla (Root) Kâlachakra Tantra – which is missing. Rather than being ‘lost’, it was probably withdrawn from the outer world, just as various other esoteric works have been either withdrawn or abridged.(10) Given Blavatsky’s remark that the Book of Dzyan is ‘the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te’, it is significant that the Laghu (Abridged) Kâlachakra Tantra, which is still available, is always placed first among the Books of Kiu-te in editions of the Kanjur. The Kâlachakra Tantra is the only Buddhist Tantra whose subject matter resembles the cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis of The Secret Doctrine. According to Reigle, ‘Dzyan’ is a Tibetan phonetic rendering of the Sanskrit jñâna (wisdom), the result of dhyâna (meditation), and ‘Jñâna’ is the title of the fifth and last section of theKâlachakra Tantra. However, none of the stanzas that Blavatsky quotes from the Book of Dzyan has so far been located in the abridged Kâlachakra Tantra or in verses from the root Kâlachakra Tantra quoted in other Buddhist writings.
Blavatsky states that the Kâlachakra is the first and most important work in the Gyut (rGyud) division of the Kanjur, the division of mystic knowledge.(11) The Kâlachakra Tantra is considered to be the pinnacle of the Buddha’s esoteric doctrine, and is the only Tantra said to have come directly from Shambhala – which in theosophical literature is regarded as the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Adepts. Furthermore, the Panchen (or Tashi) Lama is the special protector of Kâlachakra, and his monastery, Tashi-lhunpo, near Shigatse, has been the major centre for Kâlachakra studies in Tibet. Blavatsky states that the secret volumes of Kiu-te are in the charge of the Tashi Lama, with whom her adept teachers were closely associated. In a letter to Franz Hartmann in 1886, she writes:
There is beyond the Himalayas a nucleus of Adepts, of various nationalities; and the Teschu Lama knows them, and they act together, and some of them are with him and yet remain unknown in their true character even to the average lamas . . . My Master and K.H. and several others I know personally are there, coming and going . . .(12)
In the preface to The Voice of the Silence, Blavatsky states that the work is a translation of extracts from The Book of the Golden Precepts, which is part of the same series as the Book of Dzyan. In The Voice it is asked: ‘Wouldst thou become a Yogi of “Time’s Circle”?’ (p. 29) – ‘time’s circle’ or ‘wheel of time’ is the literal translation of kâlachakra. The Voice goes on to say that to become such a yogi, one must not retreat into selfish seclusion, but follow the path of compassionate service to mankind:
Sow kindly acts and thou shalt reap their fruition. Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin. . . .
Shalt thou abstain from action? Not so shall gain thy soul her freedom. To reach Nirvâna one must reach Self-Knowledge, and Self-Knowledge is of loving deeds the child. (p. 31)
In 1927 Alice Leighton Cleather and Basil Crump issued a reprint of The Voice of the Silence under the auspices of the Chinese Buddhist Research Society in Peking. In their editorial foreword they state that they undertook the work at the request of the (ninth) Panchen Lama, ‘as the only true exposition in English of the Heart Doctrine of the Mahayâna and its noble ideal of self-sacrifice for humanity’. The Panchen Lama contributed a brief message on the path of liberation. David Reigle says that the time of the ninth Panchen Lama (1883-1937) seemed to mark a new period of growth for the Kâlachakra teachings. During his extensive travels he established new Kâlachakra Colleges in monasteries in Tibet and Mongolia.
While living in Peking, China, he presented the editors of The Voice of the Silence with a small Kâlachakra treatise, and a few years later, in 1932, he there gave the Kâlachakra Initiation to an immense gathering. These large public Initiations are meant to qualify candidates to begin the study and practice of the Kâlachakra Tantra, or, according to the present Dalai Lama, at least to establish a karmic relationship with the Kâlachakra teachings.(13)
The Dalai Lama gave the Kâlachakra initiation in Madison, Wisconsin, in July 1981, the first time it had been given in the West.
Reigle hopes that a Sanskrit or Tibetan manuscript of the Book of Dzyan will be made available in the not-too-distant future, as this would have a major impact on the academic world and undermine its scepticism towards theosophy.(14) We can be confident that The Book of Dzyan will be released as soon as the time is ripe, for the mahâtmas ‘know best what knowledge is best for mankind at a particular stage of its evolution’.(15)
- See The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, TUP, 2nd ed., 1975, p. 45; H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, TUP, 1977 (1888), 1:xlii.
- H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1950-91, 14:422.
- G. de Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, TUP, 1973, pp. 452-4.
- The Secret Doctrine, 1:22-3.
- Ibid., 1:309. See also: Studies in Occult Philosophy, pp. 442-3; John Algeo, Senzar: The mystery of the mystery language, Theosophical History Centre, 1988.
- H.J. Spierenburg, The Buddhism of H.P. Blavatsky, PLP, 1991, pp. 135-50.
- David Reigle, The Books of Kiu-te or The Tibetan Buddhist Tantras: a preliminary analysis, Wizards Bookshelf, 1983; David Reigle & Nancy Reigle, Blavatsky’s Secret Books: twenty years’ research, Wizards Bookshelf, 1999. See also Robert Hütwohl, ‘The Practical Vision of Sri Kâlacakra’, The High Country Theosophist, April 1997, pp. 9-19, Dec. 1997, p. 13.
- Reigle, The Books of Kiu-te, p. 1.
- Blavatsky Collected Writings, 6:94-112. See also Jean Overton Fuller, Blavatsky and Her Teachers, East-West Publications, 1988, pp. 111-2.
- See The Secret Doctrine, 1:xxiii-xxxv, 68, 269-72.
- Blavatsky Collected Writings, 14:402; The Secret Doctrine, 1:52fn.
- Charles J. Ryan, H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement, TUP, 2nd ed., 1975, p. 85. See also: Blavatsky Collected Writings, 14:425; Theosophical Glossary (1892), Theos. Co., 1973, p. 305.
- Reigle, The Books of Kiu-te, p. 37.
- The High Country Theosophist, Feb. 1995, pp. 29-32, Dec. 1995, pp. 246-9.
- Blavatsky Collected Writings, 6:265.
by David Pratt. November 1998.
By David Reigle on April 13, 2012 at 3:21 am
The value of the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha has long been known to students of Theosophy. Already in 1936 the classic study of this text, The Philosophy of the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha by Sanskrit scholar B. L. Atreya, was published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras, India. As I had noted elsewhere, the distinctive terms used by the Advaita Vedāntin Theosophist T. Subba Row, cid-ākāśa and also cit-śakti, do not come from the standard treatises on Advaita Vedānta, but rather come from the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha.
In the early 1990s an extraordinary discovery was made. In the process of assembling manuscripts from which to prepare a critical edition of the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha, Indologist Walter Slaje found an entirely distinct, unrevised recension of this text that called itself the Mokṣopāya, the “Means to Liberation.” It is equally huge, about 30,000 verses, but it preserves a considerably more original version of the text.
Walter Slaje wrote about this in full detail in his 1994 German language book, Vom Mokṣopāya-Śāstra zum Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha-Mahārāmāyaṇa (“From the Mokṣopāya-Śāstra to the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha-Mahārāmāyaṇa”). This major find led to the Mokṣopāya Project, with government and university funding to prepare a critical edition of this large and important text. A brief account of this in English by Slaje, titled “The Mokṣopāya Project,” was published in Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, vol. 77, 1996, pp. 209-221 (attached).
In the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha, a pervasive layer of Vedānta ideas has been added to the advaita or non-dual teachings of the Mokṣopāya. Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is the well-known fact that Advaita Vedānta takes the authority of scripture as the only truly valid means of higher knowledge, thereby discounting the role of reasoning in reaching higher knowledge. The Mokṣopāya does just the opposite, taking reasoning as the valid means of higher knowledge, and entirely discounting the authority of scripture. Another difference is that terminology now found primarily in Buddhist texts has been systematically replaced. In this, and in its emphasis on pure advaita or non-dualism, the Mokṣopāya is very reminiscent of Gauḍapāda’s Māṇḍūkya-kārikā. Slaje describes some of the “willful changes” that were made in the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha in the above-mentioned article, p. 212, including:
“an attempt to ‘vedānticize’ the text, which—though it does teach monism (advaita)—has nothing in common with the particularities of Śaṅkara’s Vedānta, but indeed very much with Gauḍapāda’s Kārikās and the Laṅkāvatārasūtra of the Mahāyāna.”
In Gauḍapāda’s text we had only a small example of these teachings, about 200 verses. Now we have a massive source of these teachings in its unrevised and more original form. It promises to be a fundamental resource for students of Theosophy.
The Mokṣopāya project has been underway for about two decades now, and the long-awaited results of this painstaking research are now seeing the light of day. In the 1990s three small volumes of the fragmentary commentary Mokṣopāya-ṭīkā were published, followed by a fourth in 2002, giving a taste of what this unrevised text has to offer. In 2011 the first two volumes of the critical edition of the Mokṣopāya itself were published, and the third volume in 2012. They were published in Germany by Harrassowitz (http://www.harrassowitz-verlag.de), and are expensive. I have not yet seen them. Of particular interest for Book of Dzyan research is the large third chapter, the utpatti-prakaraṇa or section on cosmogony, published as volume 2 of the now available volumes.
By Jacques Mahnich on April 12, 2012 at 10:10 pm
The Chittamatra tradition of the Middle Way teaches, according to the Shentong tradition, that the Dharmadhâtu is the same as the Clear Light and the same as the Buddha Nature (Tathagatagarbha).
From “A Treatise on Buddha Nature” by Rangjung Dorje (excerpt from : “On Buddha Essence by Khenchen Thrangu”)
- p.21 : « The element has no creator, but it is given this name, because it retains its own characteristics. It (the element) is different from all other things in that it possesses its own characteristics, and while being empty and not having any true reality, it also has the nature of luminosity. »
p.47 : « It (the dharmadhâtu) could also be called the union of wisdom and space, where space is the aspect of emptiness and wisdom is the aspect of clarity. »
p.62 : « The aspect of space is emptiness, that is, the absence of any true reality . Since beginningless time, phenomena have been without any reality , and the nature of our mind has also been without any reality. This is the space or emptiness phenomena, or we could say the dharmadhâtu. »
p.76 : « The dharmadhâtu and the buddha nature are the same ; they cannot be separated…When talking about the emptiness aspect we say dharmadhâtu, and when talking about the luminosity aspect we say buddha nature. »
It is confirmed by other scriptures : From “Yoga of the Guhyasamajatantra – Alex Wayman”
p.188 : from the Pancakrama II,29 commentary : The great Science (mahavidyâ) is the Dharmadhâtu, the Clear Light.
p.193 : from Tson-kha-pa commentary on the Caturdevîparipricchâ : « The three vijnânas proceed from the the 18-fold dharmadhâtu which is the Clear Light of Death. »
p.201 : from the school of Buddhajnânapâda – Vitapâda’s Muktitilaka-nâma-vyâkhyâna : « The self-existence of the non-duality of the Profound and the Bright has the nature of pervading all states (bhâva) and is not included in the dharmas of samsâra ; it is called Dharmadhâtu. »